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BY THE SAME AUTHOR 


THE REALISTS 


{ 


Part One : Saviours of Society 
Parts Two and Three [in Preparation). 


THE OLDEST GOD 

AN AFFAIR OF HONOUR 

TALES OF INTRIGUE AND REVENGE 

TO-MORROW AND TO-MORROW . . . 


VINDICATION 

THE COMMANDMENT OF MOSES 
SOLILOQUY 

THE CONFESSIONS OF A WELL-MEANING WOMAN 


THE SENSATIONALISTS 


fPart One: Lady Lilith 

Part Two : The Education 
of Eric Lane 

Part Three : The Secret 
Victory 


SONIA MARRIED 
MIDAS AND SON 
NINETY-SIX HOURS’ LEAVE 
SONIA 

THE SIXTH SENSE 


SHEILA INTERVENES 

THE RELUCTANT LOVER 

BY INTERVENTION OF PROVIDENCE 

TEX: A Chapter in the Life of Alexander Teixeira 

DE MATTOS 

WHILE I REMEMBER 



SAVIOURS 
OF SOCIETY 




< 

* * 




i 



♦ 




SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

BEING THE FIRST PART OF ‘ THE REALISTS ’ 


BY 

STEPHEN McKENNA 


# 





t 

THORNTON BUTTERWORTH, LTD. 
15 BEDFORD STREET, LONDON, W.C.2 





Maie and P "«M in Great Britain 
All rights reserved 


CAMPBELL STUART 


“ I could . . . bid courier take 
Message for me, post-haste, a thousand miles. 

I bid him, since I have the right to bid. 

And, my part done so far, his part begins ; 

He starts with due equipment, will and power, 

Means he may use, misuse, not use at all. 

At his discretion, at his peril too. 

I leave him to himself: but, journey done, 

I count the minutes, call for the result 
In quickness and the courier quality. 

Weigh its worth, and then punish or reward 
According to proved service ; not before. 

Meantime, he sleeps through noontide, rides till dawn, 
Sticks to the straight road, tries the crooked path. 
Measures and manages resource, trusts, doubts 
Advisers by the wayside, does his best 
At his discretion, lags or launches forth 
(He knows and I know) at his peril too. 

You see ? Exactly thus men stand to God : 

I with my courier, God with me . . 

Robert Browning : 

Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, 
Saviour of Society. 



CONTENTS 


PART I 


Prologue - " 

Chapter 

I. The Sin for which there is no Forgiveness 

II. The Creed of a Realist. 

III. The Speech of a Romantic - 

IV. After the Millennium - 

V. A Martyr in Spite of Herself - 

PART II 

I. Saviours of Society - 

II. Between the Acts - 

III. “ Pulp ”.' 

IV. “ Six Months Elapse ” - 

V. The Curtain Rises - 

PART III 

I. What the Day Brings - 

II. The Napoleon Touch ‘ 

III. “ The Man Himself being Judge " 

IV. The Dynastic Question - 

V. Nicias to Cleon 

Epilogue - - * 


Page 

13 

3i 

49 

72 

90 

113 


137 

158 

176 

193 

213 


231 
249 
269 
291 

- 3i3 

- 333 


9 




T HE novelist who treats of contemporary social 
life exposes himself to the double penalty of being 
told that he has taken known models and that photo¬ 
graphy is not among the highest forms of art. It is 
usually waste of space for his publishers to announce 
that no living person is “ intended ” ; it is usually waste 
of time for him to agree with his critics that to create 
is at once more exacting and less unsatisfying than to 
copy ; and it is always waste of hope, when contemporary 
social life merges with contemporary political life, lor 
the novelist to fancy that his protestations will be heard 
If his secretary of state be a nobleman of wide territorial 
influence, with an hereditary interest in the turf, he must 
nlearly be " intended ” for Lord Derby. The newspaper- 
proprietor of modern romance must always be Lor 
Northcliffe, unless fashion favour Lord Rothermere or 
Lord Beaverbrook. The great hostess, the grea \wre 
puller, the great financier, all have their inevitab e 
“ originals”, at least in the imagination of certain readers. 

The three volumes of The Realists were completed, 
in their first draft, before the fall of Mr. Ramsay 
Macdonald's government in the autumn of 1924; a * ’ 
as that government is presumed to have a en so 
months before the events described m the first chapte 
of the first volume, the political history a 
and the men and women who helped to shape 1 ar 
imaginary. The author believes that, as t e 0 1 

and Irish parliamentary leaders withdrew from t 
middle of the arena, a new grouping, a new fait 1, 
methods and new men came to fill the place of the old. 


11 



12 


As he believes and as the title suggests, an age of realism 
has supervened on the insincerities, the reticences and 
the sentimentalities in which politics were swathed 
before, during and immediately after the war. In throwing 
the action a few months or years forward, he has not 
essayed the part of a prophet, but has only tried to secure 
himself against the identity-hunter in a study of forces, 
personalities and atmosphere that seem characteristic 
of the age. 



PART I 


PROLOGUE 


* 


" This constitutes my mission—grant the phrase— 

Namely, to rule men—men within my reacn, 

To order, influence and dispose them so 

As render solid and stability 

Mankind in particles, the light and loose ^ 

For their ^"pleasure ^ 

Saviour of Society. 


I 

T HROUGHOUT Fleet Street, long skilled in 
charming excitement from nothing and in wring¬ 
ing the last thrill from excitement already create ^' 1 
was agreed that only a master-hand cou ave 
history out of a royal commission in embryo and a 

revolution out of a yet unwritten report. _ , 

The official announcement, published on a T Y 
when newspaper-readers had recovered rom e 
tractions of the week-end, stated baldly that the 
on the advice of the prime minister, had een g* 
pleased to appoint a commission with P owe f 
witnesses, take evidence, issue a report and make reco 

mendations on the condition of trade an c ° m ™ u * 

within the empire, having special 0 fostering 
unemployment in England, the desira 11ty kets 

emigration and the possibility of establis mg 
in place of those which had been lost t roug 

Newspaper-readers accustomed to royal commissions 

13 


i 4 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

opined that the new prime minister, like his predecessors, 
could find no remedy for unemployment and debated 
drearily whether any government, in these days of the 
world’s convalescence after war, could discover a solution 
of anything. From the noontide of Mr. Lloyd-George to 
the twilight of Mr. Standish no one seemed able to reduce 
the cost of living nor to set trade on its feet; in one 
industry after another the combined statesmanship of 
masters and men could achieve no settlement more 
lasting then a year’s agreement terminable by a strike or 
lock-out. The war had not ended war ; the world had 


not been made safe for democracy or any other form of 
government; and commissions of enquiry were now 
accepted as a legitimate means of procrastination in 
which all parties might indulge equally in their equal 
and common duty of keeping the public quiet. Already, 
at short intervals, one ministry after another, by referring 
to a committee the still unsolved problems of depart¬ 
mental extravagance, food-prices and coal-control, had 
confessed its impotence to govern; Mr. Standish’s 


contribution to the long tale of general failure was the 
royal commission on unemployment. 

On the Thursday after the official announcement, 
when newspaper-readers were meeting in clubs and 
restaurants for the last time before abandoning them¬ 
selves to the distractions of the week-end, an unofficial 
statement, originating in the Sheridan press, hinted at 
the possibility of Mr. Ambrose Sheridan’s being invited 
to preside over the commission ; and, without waiting 
to verify the report, twenty-seven public bodies, ranging 
from a distress committee in South London to a chamber 

rnnHTr m ^ WeSt sent telegrams of 

0 n V nd / 00d Wishes - Next morning the 

” , 0fficiaU y- The late L °odon editions 

invitation The " ^ aCCepted the P 1 ™ 2 minister's 
notation. The evening papers published the names of 


PROLOGUE 


15 

Mr. Sheridan’s colleagues. At their leisure during the 
week-end, neswpaper-readers learned that Mr. Sheridan, 
characteristically practical, was taking his mission round 
the world on a voyage of investigation ; characteristically 
prompt and energetic, he was setting out the moment 
that a suitable ship could be found. 

Newspaper-readers, however bitterly accustomed to 
royal commissions, opined now that, with Ambrose 
Sheridan in the chair, something might really come of 
this one. The problem of unemployment might, after all, 
prove not to be insoluble. Mr. Sheridan’s report would 
be revolutionary. This royal commission, they assever¬ 
ated, was in a fair way to make history. Newspaper- 
readers, whatever else they discussed that week-end, 
came back at short intervals to the trade commission 
and to Ambrose Sheridan, echoing with an air of origin¬ 
ality the phrases which they had learned from Fleet 
Street and which Fleet Street had been taught by 
Sheridan himself. 

II 

“ Business ; and a business-man to do it,” was the 
satisfied comment of the politicians in railway-carriages 
on their way home for the week-end. 

• Before he entered the House of Commons, Sheridan 
had covered the United Kingdom with a network of 
newspapers that catered indifferently, night and morning, 
or once a week, or once a month, for reactionaries and 
revolutionaries, churchmen and nonconformists, the 
followers of league-football and the leaders of the Anti¬ 
betting League ; before he was in a position to found or 
buy newspapers he had covered the world of buyers and 
sellers with a network of exchanges at which, with little 
exaggeration, he would buy whatever any one had to 
sell and sell whatever any one wished to buy. As an 
employer and producer, he stood to lose more than most 



i 6 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

by unemployment and short production ; as a rich man, 
he was hit more severely than most by oppressive taxa¬ 
tion. That, it was generally conceded, stood to reason. 

“If he can’t get us out of the present mess, nobody 
can,’’ predicted those of the railway-carriage politicians 
who regarded politics as a chaos where one man made 
havoc and another repaired it, but a chaos which prudent 
citizens, with an eye to an undisturbed week-end, left 
alone. “ He’s not afraid of work.” 

“And he’s not afraid of plain speaking,” affirmed those 
who deplored the vulgarity of politics, but remembered that 
Sheridan had taken charge of war-debts when no one else 
had the courage to call the French “ a nation of fraudulent 
shop-keepers ”. He had taken charge of reparations when ' 
there was a danger that Germany would be let off too 
lightly. He had taken charge of the peace-treaty when 
America tried to atone for coming late into the war by 
slipping out of it early. Before that, he had never been 
afraid to speak his mind about the waste of public money, 
about “ profiteering”, about munitions and food and the 
unequal pressure of compulsory service. “ If he’d had 
his way, you might have seen a business-government 
by now.” 

“ That wouldn’t suit the professional politicians,” 
replied those of Sheridan’s readers who had learned that 
he was refused office by liberal, labour and conservative 
prime ministers in turn for fear of the revolution that 
would follow a business man’s invasion of professional 
politics. 

Without question, the news of Sheridan’s appointment 
was received with less and less cordiality as the discussion 
passed from those who followed him on paper to those 
who refused to follow him in the House. Sir Hyde 
Master-man, lunching at the Liberal Club, enquired of his 
companions what they thought of " Napoleon's " latest 
move. In liberal circles it was not forgotten that Ambrose 



PROLOGUE 


17 


Sheridan had once been the rising hope of stem, unbending 
radicals. When the war came, however, he had joined a 
“ ginger group ” and helped to split the party. Not 
content with deserting the Asquith section, he had later 
left the Lloyd-George section and headed the secession 
to labour. Later still he had turned on his new friends. 
Now he was flirting with the tories. 

“ Imperial trade commission! ” snorted Sir Hyde 
Masterman. “ Imperial trade bunkum ! He’ll say that 
a tariff is the only hope for imperial trade ; and the tories 
will be so pleased to hear this from an old free-trader 
that they’ll take him to their bosom. What I should like 
to know is how you can protect the man here with a tariff 
and at the same time help the man in the colonies with 
a preference. . . 

Mr. Samson, joint-leader of a vanished party, declared 
that the country would not take food-taxes from Sheridan 
or anybody else. For the rest, he rejoiced in the appoint¬ 
ment : for so many years Ambrose Sheridan had been 
putting other people right that he should be given a 
chance of demonstrating his superior wisdom. 

“ Northcliffe ceased to count,” he recalled, “ from the 
day he was made to shoulder responsibility. It will be 
the same with Sheridan. Don’t you agree, Ebbstone ? 

Mr. Ebbstone, who, as Eppstein, had helped to finance 
the liberal party so long as it was a fount of honour, 
shrugged his shoulders without answering for the moment. 
He had devoted his time of late to buying British indus¬ 
trials, which were rising already. Whatever came of 
Sheridan's mission, it was reviving confidence. 

“ Ve can vish the tories luck of him,” he decided at 
last. “ Ve vouldn’t 'ave 'im. Labour vouldn’t ’ave 'im. 
’Vonder vich’ll be sorrier in the long run : tories for 
takin’ ’im or socialists for turnin' 'im down ? ” 

In labour circles, criticism was less articulate and more 
vindictive. When the first labour administration^ was 



18 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


formed, Sheridan met it with his blessing and pursued 
it with his advice. As “ an old parliamentary hand", as 
“ a man with a flair", as “ a realist where politics are 
concerned", he informed the labour leaders that they 
might hold office for twenty years if they created a belief 
that they alone could prevent industrial disputes and 
that they alone could persuade their followers to work 
longer hours for smaller wages. “You must square the 
unions,” he preached; and, when ministers could not or 
would not follow his counsel, he attacked them with a 
persistence that wore down their meagre strength and 
wore out their frail popularity. When their government 
fell, whatever the official, party explanation, Mr. Acland 
and Mr. Jukes, Mr. Fenn and Mr. Pomfret knew that 
they had Ambrose Sheridan to thank for their defeat and 
that he had pilloried them before the world as amiable 
incompetents. When Mr. Standish formed his new govern¬ 
ment, their sole consolation was that no place had been 
found for Sheridan. And now it seemed that he had only 
been left out because he was being kept for higher things. 

If he thinks he can cure unemployment by lowering 

the standard of living . . spluttered Acland at an 

informal meeting of the labour party’s old “inner 
cabinet ". 


“ Or by raising the cost," fumed Pomfret. 

"Or by rooting people up from their homes and 
shipping them to the other end of the world. . . ." 

In the Beaconsfield Club, official conservatism of the 
rank and file was divided and perplexed. As Mr. Standish 
had made this appointment, he must be supported in 
public ; and it was reasonable to hope that Sheridan had 
sown his political wild oats and was beginning to realize 
that, as an employer of labour, a mouthpiece of opinion 

party 1 of'ordp C ° Unt ^ his P lace «*h the 

party of order At the same time, his radical flouts and 

abour jeers at the party of order were too recent to be 



PROLOGUE 



lightly forgotten. If his apparent divorce from bolshev¬ 
ism proved to be only a separation, due to some 
passing tiff, conservatives would have cheapened them¬ 
selves by courting him as heart-whole and fancy-free. 

“ What’s he up to now ? ” whispered Mr. Tracy-Tracy, 
the London chairman of the National Conservative 
Federation. 

“ I know nothing officially,” answered Mr. Pilgrim, his 
chief of staff. “ It looks like a move to nobble the Sheridan 
press. And high time too ! His attacks are doing us a lot 
of harm.” 

“ It's a pity he wasn’t given office at the beginning. 
After all, we owe it to him that we are where we are.” 

“ Better late than never.” 

“ But is the commission going to satisfy him ? ” 
enquired Tracy-Tracy in patent doubt. 

Conservatism of the rank and file became deferentially 
silent at the approach of a minister. Mr. Kenneth Doyle, 
the parliamentary undersecretary to the Colonial Office, 
made a practice of drifting through the political clubs 
when there was gossip to be collected for his chief or a 
new word to be taught the parrots of the party. For 
two days and a night the Beaconsfield Club had been 
discussing the new royal commission ; and Lord Orping¬ 
ton had sent him to find what backing Sheridan enjoyed 


apart from his papers. 

" How is the announcement being received ? ” asked 

Doyle of the party managers. 

“ He’s the best man you could find,” answered Tracy- 
Tracy with caution. “ That’s a feather in the prime 
minister’s cap. Whether Sheridan or any one can do 

anything. ...” 

If he can't, he must keep his mouth shut,” said Doyle. 
If he can, he’ll be able to ask for his own reward. 
I don't know that I want to see him in the cabinet.” 
“ Well, you won’t, for six months,” said Doyle. 


a 


a 



20 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

Proceeding to the Colonial Office he found the secretary . 
of state in high good-humour. 

“ I never thought he’d take the fly, Kenneth,” Lord 
Orpington confessed. “ What are people saying ? ” 

“ They don’t quite know what to make of it,” Doyle 
answered. “ They don’t look forward much. The heads 
of departments here are pleased : they feel they’ll have 
six months’ respite from attack. I met Carmichael coming 
out of the War Office. He and Ferrers are delighted, 
naturally. They know he’ll over-reach himself. . . 

“ ' Capax imperii nisi imperasset ’,” Lord Orpington 
quoted. “ By the time Sheridan comes back, I don't 
think any one will press to have him taken into the 
cabinet. I’d throw down the same challenge to the others 
if they took it into their heads to attack us. Rothermere. 
Beaverbrook. ‘ Do the job yourself,’ I’d say, ‘ if you 
think you can do it better. If you can’t do it better, 
don’t criticize people who are doing their best.’ They’re 
too sharp to be caught that way, though. I’m only sur¬ 
prised that Sheridan walked into the trap.” 

” The only thing I’m afraid of with these damned 
newspaper-fellows,” said Doyle, “ is that they’ll lie their 
way to success. You and I know that Sheridan’s taken 
on an impossible job, but, if he dresses his window care¬ 
fully, he may hide the fact that he’s failed. The last 
word is always with the press. Once a lie gets started, 
you can’t overtake it.” 

“ Fl ^ res wi U overtake most lies if they’re the kind of 
figures that people notice. In effect, Sheridan is under¬ 
taking to cure unemployment. If the figures of unemploy¬ 
ment remain unchanged, no amount of lying will drive 

the unemployment out of sight or make Sheridan's 
mission a success.” 

it " Convcrsel y. « the figures fall, he gets the credit of 
That’s what the P.M.’s afraid of,” confessed Lord 



PROLOGUE 


21 


Orpington with a frown. “ I told him to risk it. You 
lunching at Nugent's ? Come along." 

Ill 

At Nugent’s Club, in St. James’ Street, the royal com¬ 
mission was placed in its proper perspective from the 
standpoint of men who observed politics at closer quarters 
than the man in the railway-carriage, the man in the 
defeated enemy’s camp or the man in the swarming 
political club. 

“ You’ve earned the gratitude of the party and of the 
country," exclaimed the foreign secretary, as Lord 
Orpington came into the coffee-room. “ The country and 
the party, I should say," he corrected himself. 

“ It comes to the same thing, doesn’t it ? ” Doyle 
muttered. 

Though Sir John Ferrers deplored the intrusion of 
party-spirit into foreign policy and was always careful in 
his public utterances to put country before party, he was 
unshakably convinced that his country was best served 
by his party’s being in power. So thinking, he spared 
neither strength nor money to put it in power and to 
keep it in power; and, realizing that decay within was 
more to be feared than attack from without, he left the 
details of foreign policy to his permanent officials and 
employed his resultant leisure in purging and bracing the 
body of the party. 

“ Beyond telling the P.M. that I couldn’t carry on if 
I was going to be attacked day in, day out, I’ve done 
nothing,” Lord Orpington declared. " I don't think we're 
any of us anxious to have Sheridan as a colleague. . . ." 

" I was afraid the P.M. would propose it again, simply 
for peace and quiet," said Sir John with a frown. 

From Mr. Standish, as the foreign secretary knew better 
than most, little discrimination and less decision could be 
expected : the prime minister was altogether too tolerant 



22 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

and would accept the allegiance of men who could repeat 
but a single sentence of the party creed. That way, Sir 
John knew, lay ultimate disruption. Had he been 
entrusted with the formation of the government, he would 
have allowed no free-thinking on foreign policy or Ireland 
or the established church or the House of Lords ; nor 
would he have admitted heretics on Mr. Standish’s feeble 
plea that they would have no chance of airing their 
heresies. When heretics yielded place to open blasphemers, 
when the prime minister talked of strengthening the 
ministry by inviting Ambrose Sheridan to join it, Sir 
John Ferrers judged that the time had come for him to 
save the party ; and with Mr. Rodney and Mr. Car¬ 
michael he had formed a triumvirate pledged to leave 
Foreign Office, Admiralty and War Office without a 
master on the day that Sheridan was taken into the 
cabinet. In the shadow of the triumvirate lurked a 
bigger and less distinguished group bound by oath to 
refuse office if the triumvirate resigned. 

“ We have you to thank," Sir John told Lord Orpington, 
" for the present ingenious alternative. I think our friend 
has dished himself." 

" I'm so sure of it that I can't make out what he’s 
thinking of," answered Lord Orpington. “ The credit of 
the idea, though, must go to Charles Otway. I was 
grousing to him about the way Sheridan’s papers always 
go for me ; and Charles suggested I should take him at 
his word and let him shew what he could do. I didn’t 
think he’d fall for it, but there’s no limit to some people's 
vanity. He really believes his own papers when they 
compare him to Napoleon. Well, he asked for my help ; 
and I promised it. He shall have all the rope he needs. 
If he doesn’t hang himself, we shall at least have six 
months’ holiday from him. . . 

Awkward for you, Peter," interrupted Mr. Rodney, 
with a grin, if Sheridan does make a sensible suggestion." 



PROLOGUE 23 

" I shall adopt it! ” answered Lord Orpington. “ Good 
Heavens, I’m not prejudiced against the fellow to that 
extent! Personal feelings, party feelings. ... We should 
forget them very quickly if Sheridan or any one else 
came forward with a cure for unemployment. . . . 

“ Would he forget them as quickly ? ” persisted Mr. 
Rodney. “ We’re all assuming that Sheridan fads, he’s 
being sent out to fail; if he succeeded in a task where 
every one—to speak quite frankly—has failed already, 
wouldn’t he have the laugh of us ? Shouldn t we find it 

rather difficult to resist him ? ” 

Sir John Ferrers took it upon himself to answer for the 

cabinet. Sheridan had been refused office in the past and 
would be refused it in the future, not through his own 
personal unpopularity, noi through the antagonism of this 
man or that, whom he had Utacked in his papers, but as 
the considered policy of the party. Never again would 
conservatives enter a coalition nor accept the leaders p 
of their political opponents. Their task was to conserve , 
and the first thing to be conserved was their own identity. 
If Sheridan embraced their faith, he would be received 
on his merits and with due regard to his record in the 
days before his regeneration; he must not try to p ay 
the part of a Chamberlain or a Lloyd-George, capturing 

or converting the party to his own uses. . 

“ A great many people,” Sir John explained, thought 

it was personal spite when Carmichael and Ro ney an 
I said we wouldn't sit in a cabinet with Sheridan. It was 
only self-preservation. The party must be ept omo 
geneous. I hammered that into the prime minister. 
I hammered it into the Carlton Club, with the resul 
that you got the solemn league and covenan . o 
Carmichael and I alone, but Killamey, C ^ arl !f ^tway 
Avonmouth, Moncrieff, Denton warned the F.M. mar 
he mustn’t count on them. And, if he trie o a e 
Sheridan in to-morrow, the same thing would happen. 



24 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

we should resign in a body and there'd be no one to take 
our place. It will be time enough to offer Sheridan a 
welcome when he’s made up his mind which side of the 
House he means to sit.” 


IV 

In the dining-room of [Number Ten, Downing Street, 
the news that Mr. Sheridan had accepted the prime 
minister's invitation was received by the prime minister 
with mixed feelings. 

Better than all his critics and advisers, he knew that, 
unless he grappled with the problem of industrial recon¬ 
struction more successfully than his predecessors, his 
government would fall like theirs. The adroitness of one 
colleague in setting traps, the confidence of all the rest 
that Sheridan would walk into them seemed adroitness 
wasted and confidence misplaced. The cabinet might 
breathe more freely when its chief critic was discredited, 
but to defeat Ambrose Sheridan was not the same as to 
cure unemployment; and, in a way that Mr. Standish 
could never explain to his colleagues, he regarded himself 
less as the leader of a party than as the king’s first 
minister and the head of a government responsible for the 
welfare of the country. His task would have been easier 
if Ferrers and Sheridan had never quarrelled, easier still 
if they had never been born ; had he to choose between 
them he would have taken Sheridan for his brains and 
personality, but the triumvirate was in a position to 
split the party and the first breach in their ranks would 
let in an uncontrolled labour majority. To cure unemploy¬ 
ment was less urgent, to Mr. Standish’s thinking, than to 
keep labour out of office, but both were more important 

Sheridan VendeUa ’ h ° WeVer successf ul, with Ambrose 

It t0 °v,' th£ v u endetta would not be successful. 

It might bo chance that British industrials should rise 



PROLOGUE 


25 


from the moment when Sheridan took official charge of 
unemployment; on the other hand, it might be a result 
of autosuggestion among speculators. If they believed 
a stock would rise, if they said it would rise, if they bought 
for a rise, that stock would rise in fact. Sheridan had an 
undeniable flair. He was a master of mass-psychology. 
If he said there was a good time coming, if he urged every 
one to buy in anticipation of that good time, people would 
in fact buy. And, as the shops sent their new orders to 
the factories, as the factories sent new orders for raw 
material, the good time would in truth come, unemploy¬ 
ment would fall, the Standish government would have 
succeeded where the Macdonald government, the Baldwin 
government, the Lloyd-George government had failed. 

“ Autosuggestion . . .” murmured the prime minister. 

The man who understood that understood the secret of 
government. Why did securities fall when radicals and 
labourites came into power ? Because every one was 
frightened, because every one said they would fall, because 
every one hastened to sell before they could fall too far 
It was hard on radicals and labourites that they should 
always have “ the City ” against them, but that was the 

fortune of war. 

“ Well, you see I’ve taken your advice,’ Mr. Standish 
told Lord Otway. “ And it’s beginning to bear fruit 
already. The Sheridan press is changing its tone and 
there's an undoubted note of optimism in the air. 

“ I always said that you might do good, but that you 
couldn’t possibly do harm,” answered Lord Otway. 
“ You’ve muzzled the Sheridan papers and got rid ol 
Sheridan for six months. At the end he may have solved 
your difficulties for you ; or they may have solved them¬ 
selves. If, unhappily, they remain unsolved, Sheridan 
will no longer be able to attack you for faffing where he 

has failed too.” , .. , „ 

“ But if he succeeds where every one else has laded . 

C(CC. #Vo *. / y- 1 


26 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


asked the prime minister. " I must take him into the 
government. If I take him in, Ferrers and Carmichael 
and Rodney will go out. If they go . . .” 

“ I shouldn’t try to keep them,” Lord Otway recom¬ 
mended. “ They can’t be allowed to impose perpetual 
excommunication on any man.” 

" They had me at their mercy when I was forming the 
government. I must find places for all three of them ; 
they must choose their offices ; and they must have a 
veto on my other appointments. If I didn’t accept their 
terms, I might throw in my hand : no one would serve 
in their place. You yourself, Charles . . .” he continued 
in mild reproach. 

“ I felt very strongly that Sheridan was a danger,” 
Lord Otway confessed. ” I didn't know him then. Now 
that I know him I still think he's a danger ; but he's 
more dangerous outside the government than in. If he 
comes back successful in six months’ time, I think he 
should be taken into the cabinet. I, personally, should 
not join Ferrers in resisting him. Any influence I have 
would be used in breaking down the boycott which 
Ferrers has set up . . .” 

If they held to their threat of resigning, would you 
be prepared to fill a place ? ” 

Lord Otway, taken off his guard by the abrupt question, 

hesitated long before answering. As a survivor from Mr. 

Balfour s government, he was formally offered a position 

in every conservative administration; and to each 

conservative prime minister he replied that, while his 

experience and advice could be commanded, he was 

reluctant to give up his directorships unless the public 
interest required it. 


If that were the only means of breaking the boycott,” 
he promised with a sigh. 

h f Z be P ° pular With Ferrers or Pete r Orpington, 
ut I shall be master in my own house. At least . 


• • 



PROLOGUE 


27 


The prime minister smiled wanly. “ If I have to take 
Sheridan in, I wonder if I shall ever be able to call my 

soul my own again. 


In Ambrose Sheridan’s house, in his offices and in the 
houses and offices of those he employed, the trade com¬ 
mission was the only subject of conversation that week¬ 
Max Hendry, telephoning from his father s house at 
Newmarket, angled to find out whether Mr Sheridan 
expected his private secretary to accompany the mission 
in the middle of the flat-racing season, or whether his 
place could be taken by his friend Geoffrey Mallock, 

lent for that purpose by the Colonial Office. 

Geoffrey Mallock took counsel of his friends to learn 

whether the mission would be “ good for a ■ • or 
whether he must be content with a C.M.G. 

Mrs. Sheridan wondered if a complete change o 
months would not really be the best thing for everybody. 
She wondered whether anything else would cure he 
husband of his infatuation for a girl half his age_ She 
wondered whether it would be worse for her to be le 
behind, in suspense, or taken with him, to e t em 
daily that their marriage had come to an end te "J 
ago and had better be ended formally. She did not wond 
whether the mission would be a success, because she had 
never known her husband to fail. She did not wonder 
whether, at the end, he would be taken into the cab®*, 
he would enter the cabinet in his own good time 
she was not wondering about anything else, s h 

whether Ambrose still valued her judgement and wheth 
she could make him see the imprudence of taking g 
like Evelyn Colthurst as his “ personal secretary. 

Miss Colthurst wondered if Mrs. Shendan ever wondered 

about anything. 



28 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


Editors and leader-writers, secretaries and managers, 
typists and stenographers debated their chances of being 
taken with the mission. 

Mr. Sheridan himself sent for his solicitor, Andrew 
Livingstone, and remained closeted with him for the 
whole of one day and the half of one night. At the end 
he handed Max Hendry a list of all who were coming and 
instructed him to give it to Lord Orpington, who wished 
to entertain the mission at a farewell dinner. 

The public bodies that telegraphed their congratulations 
and good wishes had risen by now from twenty-seven to 
four hundred and nine. 



In the smoking-room of his house in Manchester Square 
Lord Otway let fall, in the middle of the week-end, that 
he had been lunching with the prime minister and that 
the Sheridan mission was likely to be abroad for at least 
six months. 

By accident or design, he made his announcement a few 
minutes before dinner, when there was no time for 
anybody to say much. He made it to his wife, to his son 
and to his two elder daughters ; his sons-in-law happened 
to be present, but at the mention of Sheridan’s name they 
faded out of the half-circle round Lord Otway and became 
engrossed in illustrated papers. The family was left 

thnnT t 6 t bSenCe ° f the y° un 8 ( ‘ st daughter, 

lough she could he heard overhead, humming a popular 

waltz as she dressed. b F F 


The longer the better,” commented Mrs. Wainwright 
men f f glanced a PP rehens ively towards the two young 

mUStrat£d «« " - 

news* I ’ wThad*for ^ Cavaly ' “ WeU ' U ' s the best 
ve had for a long tune. If this hadn't happened. 



PROLOGUE 


*9 


you really would have had to say something to Auriol, 
daddy.” 

“ The trouble about saying anything . . began Lady 
Otway and ended without defining what the trouble was. 

Guy Cavaly and Philip Wainwright, simultaneously 
laying aside their papers, supposed simultaneously that, if 
Sheridan was going abroad, he would be taking old Max 
with him. They wondered, to each other, how old Max 
would like being dragged away in the middle of the flat- 
racing season. They agreed that it was all in the day s 
work. As the family council shewed no signs of breaking 
up, they simultaneously pushed back the cuffs from their 
left wrists, looked at their watches and asked what the 
right time was. Each added that he had been afraid he 

was going to be late for dinner. 

“ To do Auriol justice,” said Colin Otway, "I don’t think 
she’s altogether to blame. Sheridan’s the fellow I want 
to talk to. With the toe of a boot, for choice. Auriol’s 


too young ... 

“ She’s not too young to know that some things are 
simply not done,” interrupted Imogen Wainwright. 
“ When it comes to living in the pocket of a man whose 
reputation with women is absolutely notorious . . . 

“ His reputation wasn’t bad enough to keep us from 
admitting him to the house,” Cohn reminded his sister. 

“ The thing had to be regularized somehow,” answered 
Joyce Cavaly. “ You couldn't have him visiting her at 
Cambridge, taking her out to dinner, being seen with her 


all over the place ...” 

“ By asking him here, we've given our blessing to it, 


9 ) 


grumbled Cohn. 

From Auriol’s room, overhead, came the sound ot 


singing: 


“ What’ll I do 
When you 
Are far away 



30 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


And I 
Am feeling 
Blue ? 

What'll I do ? ” 

" God ! ” murmured Colin as at an omen. 

“ It’s a mistake to become too tragic,” suggested Lady 
Otway. “ I’m taking Auriol to Italy next week. Mr. 
Sheridan’s going away for six months ; and in that time 
anything may happen.” 

” But suppose for the sake of argument,” said Imogen, 
“ that nothing does ? ” 

“ If this business begins all over again in six months’ 
time ...” sighed Joyce. 

“ Aren’t you thinking too much of Auriol and not 
enough of Sheridan ? ” asked Lord Otway. " When he 
comes back, he’ll have had either a great success or a 
great failure. If he has had a great success, I don't see 
how Standish can help taking him into the cabinet. And, 
once he's there, he’ll have to pay rather more attention 
to the convenances . . .” 

” D’you think he will have a success, sir ? ” asked Guy 
Cavaly, grasping eagerly at the chance of breaking up the 
family council. 

“I do,” said Lord Otway. 

“ And, if he fails, he’ll be a pricked bubble ? ” Colin 
enquired hopefully. “ M' well . . .” 


VII 


By herself in her room, singing as she wrote, Auriol 

Otway made clear that she at least did not share her 
lather s optimism. 


” I must see 
Mr. Sheridan. 


you at once,” she wrote peremptorily to 
“ I think you must be mad” 



CHAPTER I 


The Sin For Which There is No Forgiveness 


. . . 'Tis my nature, when I am at ease, 

Rather than idle out my life too long. 

To want to do a thing—to put a thought. 

Whether a great thought or a little one. 

Into an act, as nearly as may be. 

Make what is absolutely new—I can’t. 

Mar what is made already well enough— 

I won’t: but turn to best account the thing 
That’s half-made—that I can.” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohcnsticl-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 


I 

" T must see you at once. I think you must be mad. 
J Auriol." 

Among the telegrams and letters that reached him on 
his appointment to the chair of the royal commission on 
trade and communications (now—after three days—more 
than eight thousand), only one omitted to compliment 
Mr. Sheridan on his public spirit or to congratulate the 
prime minister on his choice or to offer good wishes for 
the success of the mission. 

“ I think you must be mad ..." 

With a smile that the fulsome phrasing of his other 
letters had faded to evoke, Mr. Sheridan propped the 
terse note against an ink-stand and reached for his 

engagement-book.' 

“ 'At once / " he muttered. 

Auriol Otway wrote as she spoke: briefly, pertly, 
imperiously; springing to her feet in mid-sentence or 
flinging herself into the chair by her desk as though she 

3i 



32 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

was flinging herself on an opponent; eager and insistent, 
a girl to whom nothing could ever be unimportant. Though 
Lady Otway sometimes protested sleepily : “ Darling, 
it’s not very polite to tell people they’re mad if they 
happen to disagree with you,” Sheridan could not resent 
a manner which shewed that the girl was at least interested 
in him. 

And she was only proclaiming, with her delightful, 
protective candour, what Andrew Livingstone had 
mumbled with the arid caution of a lawyer, what his 
editors were muttering with the timidity of anxious 
dependents and what his brother-in-law, Tony Rushforth, 
reported every one to be saying in the political clubs. 
From the prime minister and the colonial secretary to the 
humblest leader-writer and dullest smoking-room oracle, 
every critic was convinced that the great Sheridan had 
over-reached himself. “ In effect, he has undertaken to 
cure unemployment ” was the phrase attributed to Lord 
Orpington. “ To put it bluntly,” added Rushforth, “ they 
feel they’ve got rid of you for at least six months ; and 
they can’t make out why you’re taking the job.” No 
doubt, like Auriol, they thought he must be mad. 

Sheridan stripped the paper from a sketch that had 
been submitted by his chief cartoonist. With legs apart, 
head forward and locked hands, he saw himself on board 
ship, eastward-bound. Mr. Standish and Lord Orpington 
were speeding him on his way ; Sir John Ferrers and Mr. 
Carmichael were executing a dance of unseemly triumph 
behind his back. By his side, young, lean and invincible, 
the shade of Napoleon Buonaparte whispered, reminis¬ 
cently of his own eastern campaign, “ They tried to get 
rid of me too. Attached to the drawing was a note from 
the artist: Query to editor. Is this pitching it too strong ? 
I think Mr. S. should approve .” The editor contented 
himself with adding : “ Mr. Sheridan. To see ” After 
long consideration Mr. Sheridan had scribbled : “ S<*n 



SIN FOR WHICH THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS 33 

and approved. S” He had wasted time in wondering 
whether his artist meant that Mr. Sheridan’s approval 
should be obtained or that this was the kind of tribute 
that Mr. Sheridan could not help approving. It mattered 
little either way, but Cruikshank himself would have been 
turned into the street if he had thought fit to take liberties 
with his employer. Meanwhile, the cartoon was an effective 
answer to Auriol and any one else who thought that he 
had walked into a trap or that Orpington and his friends 
would be any more successful in getting rid of him than 
had been the Directors in getting rid of Buonaparte. 

“ I must see you at once.” 

The imperious note demanded an answer ; and, as he 
fidgeted with his engagement-book, Sheridan wondered 
if Auriol realized at all how difficult her family was making 
it for them to meet. First he was discouraged from 
visiting her at Cambridge; then she was taught to 
protest that she wasted his time whenever he took her 
out to dinner ; and once, when he motored her into the 
country, her brother Colin had officiously attached himself 
to their party, explaining in a whisper which was meant 
to be overheard that Auriol would look rather foolish 
if any of her friends found her enjoying a clandestine 
tete-a-tete. The house in Manchester Square still offered 
a formal welcome, but Lady Otway's enquiries after Mrs. 
Sheridan, punctilious and pointed, were a hint that Mrs 
Sheridan’s husband might find a less formal welcome if 

he did not always come alone. 

Sheridan concluded that he was not wanted. e 
Otways probably knew that he was no longer in love with 
his wife; and they were saying that Auriol needed 
protecting, as though he could have dreamed of entang ing 
a girl in her position. They were telling each other, no 
doubt, that in a week’s time he would be out of the way 
and she out of danger ; meanwhile, if they opposed her 
clumsily, they might drive her into his arms. 



34 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

When he came back, he would probably find that she 
had been hunted into a safe engagement with some man 
of her own class. The cordiality of the Otways would 
then be as sincere as in the days before he threatened 
their peace of mind ; and the man of her own class would 
take care that there were no middle-aged interlopers 
hanging about his wife on the plea of talking politics 
with her. To the Otways it must be inconceivable that 
Auriol could have an opinion or that any one would wish 
to hear it. 

“ Damned fools ! ” Sheridan muttered angrily. 

They could not see that Auriol was of a different clay 
from theirs, that her understanding and white-hot faith 
could inspire a man and that, with her beside him, he 
could move mountains. The Otways lacked neither 
character nor intelligence, but their values were rigid. 
In thirty years’ time, still admitting that the face of the 
world had been made unrecognizable by war, they would 
still be trying to recreate a corner of England as they 
remembered it before the war. Instead of being put to 
earn their livings, the boys would still be sent from Eton 
into the army ; the girls would still be expected to marry 
men of a recognized social grade rather than men of 
achievement or promise. The family would still starve to 
retain an estate which could not be kept up ; and the 
shrewdness that had led the present Lord Otway to evade 
death-duties by handing Lokshott over to Colin in his 
life-time would doubtless find a means, thirty years later, 
of patching an edifice that should have been abandoned 
by the present Lord Otway’s grandfather. Tenacious and 
sterile, they conceded that the world had changed, was 
changing, must always change, yet refused to change with 
it. And, when one of their number was too young to 
remember their way of life before the war, they treated 
her as a child, to be taught by time, to be ridiculed without 
malice and aiwavs to be protected. 



SIN FOR WHICH THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS 35 

These were the true conservatives, in a sense that a man 
of the Victorian era, like Standish, a man of the Regency, 
like Orpington, a party hack like Ferrers could never be 
conservative. It was the Otways who had to be overcome 
first if a new world was to be made in place of the one 
that had passed away in the war. And Auriol, an Otway 
of almost a different generation, an Otway in name only 
and by accident, realized that. When his head and 
heart were bruised with beating against their invertebrate 
self-satisfaction, Sheridan found in her some one to share 
and refresh his faith. Until this moment he had hardly 
considered how he would survive six months abroad 
without her passionate enthusiasm to inspire him ; and 
he had never considered how he would be able to dream 
or work when she vanished from his life on the arm of a 
Wainwright or a Cavaly, stereotyped, impeccable and 

wholly ineffectual. 

Meanwhile, Auriol “ must ” see him. She claimed rights 
in him. Had he no rights in her ? 

II 

Sheridan took a turn up and down his workroom, 
observing—with more interest than he usually spared— 
the presses and files, the news-cutting albums and framed 
caricatures that recorded his progress from a sea-port slum 
round the ambit of the world to a mansion in Cleveland 

Row. , , 

“ ‘ They tried to get rid of me too,' ” he muttered, 

balancing the latest of the cartoons on the top of a book¬ 
case. “ I wonder if Auriol would care to have that when 

I've finished with it.” 

Whether she cared for it or not, she should have it. 
No better answer could be given to the question whether 
he had taken leave of his senses ; and the presence of the 
drawing in Manchester Square would be a challenge to 
the rigid values of the Otways. Instead of regarding him 



36 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

simply as an interloper, they might consider what manner 
of man he seemed to the world outside Manchester Square. 
The caricaturists saw him, as a rule, under a Napoleonic 
guise ; a high proportion of the press-cuttings referred 
to his “ Napoleon touch ” ; and an analysis of his own 
voluminous writings would have shewn him to be inspired 
by something that might be called a new Napoleonic 
idea. What Napoleon had done for France Sheridan 
wished to do for the union of British commonwealths. 
As Napoleon had ended the middle ages, he wished 
to end the nineteenth century. He was heir to the first 
world-war, as Napoleon had been heir to the first French 
revolution. 

“ Auriol’s phrase,” he recalled with vicarious pride. 

She had used it at their first meeting, when she pushed 
young Hendry forward to introduce them and explained 
that she was yearning to meet him, that she had been 
reading his articles After the War and that there were a 
thousand questions she wanted to ask him. Before they 
parted, she had asked him the best part of a thousand, 
including one about Napoleon : what would he have 
done as a junior officer of artillery in the late war—and 
afterwards—if he had been on the German, French, 
British or American side ? They had argued for an hour 
on this ; and at some point Auriol had told Sheridan that, 
if he chose, he might be heir to the first world-war. 
How they had reached this turn of discussion he could 
not remember : he was too much intrigued by the girl’s 
imaginary portrait of an American Buonaparte, too much 
startled by the range of her imagination, the wealth of 
her knowledge and the aptness of her parallels. Maybe 
he was a little intoxicated by the warmth of her admira¬ 
tion and by the detachment of her candour in discussing 
him as an already historical figure. “ You and Napo¬ 
li ’ ■” , she kept sa y in §- “ What you’re doing, what 
Napoleon did. ...” Setting out from the same obscurity. 



SIN FOR WHICH THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS 37 


Napoleon had carved his way to power with the weapons 
of his time ; in his hands war became a new art. The 
weapon of the century following was the press; in 
Sheridan’s hands publicity had become a new science. 
Napoleon had given his youth to becoming the first 
soldier in France ; Sheridan had given his to becoming 

one of the richest men in England. ... 

Had he ever, she was eager to know, followed up this 
parallel ? If not, would he ? Comparing the late war 
and its accompanying economic revolution with the first 
French revolution and its resultant wars, would he 
consider the astonishing number of points at which his 
career and Napoleon’s ran on parallel lines ? Sheridan 
listened as long as she would talk ; when she had done, he 
added a point that had escaped her. Napoleon, to continue 
the parallel into domestic life, had married before he saw 
all that marriage involved. The historians wrote of his 
marriages censoriously or sentimentally, cynically or 
derisively, never as a matter of historical importance. 

“ I’d never thought of that,” was Auriol’s comment. 


“ I believe you’re right.” 

Turning from the familiar caricatures, Sheridan tried 
now to picture what his life would have been if he had not 
married. In the days when he hardly knew how to handle 
a knife and fork, Laura Rushforth had polished him. 
When he was friendless, she had introduced him to her 
own circle, the varied and socially instructive circle that 
her father had collected in Harley Street. When he was 
ill, she had nursed him ; and, before he came to believe 
in his star, she had inspired him to pick himself up and 
start again after his early reverses. Laura had been 
useful, but she inspired him no longer. She had age 
before him and in everything else lagged behind. 1 here 
were no children, there was no hope of children ; ana, 
since her hold on him had slackened, he was driven to one 
furtive, mercenary union after another. Since their 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 



marriage came to an end ten years before, Sheridan found 
that romance, with all its excitement and loveliness, had 
faded out of his life. Laura was not even a companion. 
If he had not married her, he would now be free to marry 
some one else. 

It was interesting to speculate how the Otways would 
have received him if he had been unencumbered. Would 
their concern for birth yield to their respect for achieve¬ 
ment, when achievement was on this scale ? Position, 
power and money, if only one had enough of it, were 
adequate substitute for a pedigree. Napoleon had been 
allowed to marry a Hapsburg ; and Auriol was of an age 
and a generation to care nothing how a man was bred so 
long as he was a man. If, like Napoleon, one arranged a 
divorce, would the Otways still offer a welcome ? Sheridan 
had never heard their views on divorce. Until that 
moment he had not been interested to hear them ; but, 
when a marriage had in fact been at an end for ten years, 
it was a small matter to end it formally, 

" I think you must be mad” 


Almost hearing her rippling, impetuous voice, Sheridan 
tried, not for the first time, to distinguish between 
Auriol s interest in him and her interest in his career. 
Was it conceivable that she too was wondering how she 
would survive the next six months ? Was she at all inter¬ 
ested in him apart from his career ? Was she interested in 
any one ? From her manner and conversation, Sheridan 
always felt that she had not yet learned the meaning of 
passion; he wondered what figure he would cut if she were 
asked to look on him as a man. Not since he was a boy of 
twenty had he tested his power over a girl of twenty. 

The austere work room spared no space for a mirror • 
and, on an impulse, Sheridan walked downstairs to the 

abou^’^^n, 1118 th f. phrase which he hims elf had coined 

of^rirat 1 mterlopers The most malicious 
of caricatures a least never tried to stunt his frame or 



SIN FOR WHICH THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS 39 

distort his features ; and he knew, as he walked, that at 
forty-two he was carrying his six feet and sixteen stone 
erect. The mirror shewed him that his grey eyes were 
clear and steady. His black hair, smooth and straight, 
was thick as a boy's ; his teeth were strong and white 
his skin was ruddy and shining. No one would mistake 
him for anything but a grown and seasoned man, but it 
girls of twenty cared for strength and condition they 
would find them in the aquiline nose, the thin-lipped, 
tightly shut mouth and the powerful, out-thrust jaw, ah 
tan flesh and hard bone. It was the face of a gladiatorm 
training • and Sheridan patted his cheeks and fingered 
the back’ of his neck to be sure that all flabbinesss and a 
had been trained away. His appetite and capacity for 
food and drink demanded merciless exercise ; and he 
worn out a dynasty of secretaries before he found in 
Max Hendry an adequate pace-maker and trainer. 

" Which reminds me ! ” Sheridan e * clal ™ e . th 
Though young Hendry had telephoned during he 

week-end to know whether he was to accompany 
mission, no answer had been given. Except as a train , 

the bo; was not really wanted but there would b no 

work for him to do at home and it wordd see™Hiarshfl 

he were turned adrift for no fault 0 is would 

months' devoted service. By taking him, Sheridan wouM 

please Laura, who had known him since he was a chfld 

he would please-and possibly surpnse-the^OUvays, 

who seemed to think him rather in u Needless 

of people when they were no longer of use to him. Needless 

X Hendry was a friend, probably a cou^offte 
Otways ! Hearing that voicerecognumg th 't nine 

seeing that Old Etonian tie, Sheridan felt th . 

such young men out of ten he wou ? e instantly 

“ Are you not a friend of the Otways . 
the reserve which they kept for an d 

they would be talking about 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 



“ Charles ” and “ old Colin ” and “ Auriol ” If only to 
keep in Auriol’s good graces, Sheridan wanted to treat 
Hendry well. From their manner to each other, he 
divined that these two were old friends or young lovers ; 
and from Auriol’s quick interest in vague hints of the 
positions to which the secretaryship might lead he 
surmised that Hendry’s future was intertwined with her 
own. If the young man cherished the hope of marrying 
Auriol as soon as he had an assured income, it was easy to 
understand why he was so anxious to know whether he 
was to be taken away from her for six months. 

" If it’s any satisfaction to her . . Sheridan began, 
then paused to wonder why he should raise a finger to 
help the Otways if they were in fact saying that in a week’s 
time he would be out of the way and Auriol out of danger. 

If on his return he found that Auriol had been hunted 
into a safe engagement with Hendry or another of his 
kind, he must resign himself to losing her, but he was not 
obliged to help any one to end a friendship that at its 
lowest was innocent and at its highest an inspiration, an 

excitement, an intoxication such as he had not met for 
twenty years. 


“ Captain Hendry. As I shall require you . . he began 
to write, then laid his pen down and took another turn 
from his desk to the window. 


Ill 


Auriol s note-or the fancied echo of her voice-was 
disturbing him as it had never disturbed him before he 
realized that he was to lose sight of her for six months. 
1S fingers twitched restlessly as he remembered the 

Ki P i eS !n re ,° f h6r S ° ft ' Strong little hands - It was 
intolerable to think that he would not see her wise young 

eyes and sudden, dazzling smile for six months that he 

might return to find her married to one of the standardized 

rainless boys, starched and oiled, who took her dancing. ’ 



SIN FOR WHICH THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS 41 

“ Though I’ve less to fear from Hendry than any one ! " 
He returned to his desk and tore up the unfinished note. 
There could be no thought of rivalry so long as he had 
a wife and Hendry could offer only an insecure four 
hundred a year, backed by day-dreams and conversational 
promises. And, the longer he idled in England on an 
income that was just big enough to stifle his ambition, 
the less likely would Hendry be to make a career for 
himself. The more, too, that Auriol saw of him as a 
member of the decorative unemployed, the less reason 

she would find for admiring him. 

Sheridan glanced again at the curt, indignant note and 
telephoned to say that he was coming to see Auriol. On 
his way downstairs he knocked at his wife’s door and told 
her that he would probably be out for luncheon. These 
minor courtesies had become rare of recent years, but, if 
she wanted to question him about the mission, she should 
have her chance. In general, Sheridan never volunteered 
information : the question “ Why didn’t you tell me ? 
could be most effectively countered by the question 
“ Why didn’t you ask me ? ” but he hoped now to make 
their meeting the occasion of exploring the thoughts that 
flashed behind her quick, nervous eyes and faltered before 
they reached her tremulous lips. “ Cross-questions and 
crooked answers ! ” he sighed. For the last ten years, li e 
had been made easier by her discretion in not opposing 
him wantonly, but he wished that she was less broken 
spirited. He was fond of her in spite of his di appointment, 
he hated to see her flinch when he spoke. They might have 
been companions, they might even have been friends 1 s e 
had realized frankly, instead of living in the past, that 

women faded and men wearied of them. 

“ I have to go out. Anything you want to say first . „ 
“ Are you in a great hurry ? This mission of yours . . . 

Mrs. Sheridan began timidly. . 

Sheridan shut the door and threw himself into a chair. 



42 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“ I couldn’t say anything about it before, because it 
wasn’t my secret,” he explained. The Times was lying on 
the floor between them ; and he read out the official 
statement with conspiratorial impressiveness. “ Now . . .” 
he went on with an encouraging smile. 

Mrs. Sheridan thanked him and cast about for inno¬ 
cuous questions, repeating the phrases which he had read. 
“ Expected to he away for at least six months .. .” “ Canada, 
Australia, New Zealand . . .” 

“ How many of you are going ? " she asked at length. 

“ Between thirty and forty, I should think.” 

“ And I . . . ? ” 

“ You ? ” 

“ Do you want me? ” 

“ It isn’t a question of ‘ wanting.’ If we all bring our 
wives, the party becomes unwieldy. If you make an 
exception for one, it’s hard not to make an exception 
for others.” 

“ But you’re the head of the mission.” Though he 
nodded, Mrs. Sheridan knew better than to press her 
point. “ Who are you taking as your personal staff ? ” 
she asked. 

"I’m not quite sure. Orpington is lending me one of 
his secretaries, Geoffrey Matlock, as general secretary to 
the mission. I thought of taking Hendry, but I believe 
he’ll be better employed here. Then I shall have first call 
of the typists. And with a personal secretary . . .” 

“ Are you taking that Miss Colthurst ? ” 

Sheridan prepared silently for battle. Though he could 
detect no change in his wife’s tone, he had learned, in 
twenty years, that, when she put “ that ” before a name, 
it signified suspicion or disapproval. “That Miss Colt- 
hurst , expanded from the telegraphic brevity of 
domestic communication, meant “that pretty Miss 

olthurst , “ that girl who’d be found too stupid to work 
lor you ten minutes if she hadn’t her looks to commend 



SIN FOR WHICH THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS 43 

her ”, “ that clever girl who receives only two hundred 
a year and spends twice two hundred on dress , that 
discreet girl who accompanies you everywhere when less 
well-favoured secretaries could not be trusted . 

“ If her people can spare her,” said Sheridan. She s 

to find out.” 

“ I think it’s a mistake,” Mrs. Sheridan sighed, with 
the courage of desperation. “ She's far too attractive. 
You know how vulgar people can be, you don t want them 
to say ‘ Mr. Sheridan has a nice taste in secretaries.' 
And you know the way people talk when they re herded 
together on board without enough to do. It s not that 
I’m jealous, but I don't want you to run any risks. It 
isn’t what you do that causes trouble in this world, it s 
what other people say.” 

Her daring exhausted, Mrs. Sheridan shrank back as 
though she expected to be struck. Though she was only 
a few years older than her husband, long conflict and longer 
mortification had aged her prematurely. Her brown hair 
was lustreless ; her cheeks were fallen in ; her big aze 
eyes, mournful and restless, seemed to be aching for wa ^ 
of sleep. As a young girl Sheridan remembered with 
surprise that she had been beautiful; in the serenity 0 
old age she would be beautiful again; but in middle 1 e s e 
had lost confidence without gaining resignation. 1 orturecl 
by her nerves and half maddened by insomnia, she exasper¬ 
ated him by her pathetic efforts not to exasperate him. 

" I don’t pay much attention to gossip,” Sheridan 
answered loftily. “ Now, is there anything more >°u wan 

to know ? It’s time I started.” 

“ I mustn’t keep you. And I mustn t neglect my ow 

work.” 

IV h 

She was moving to a table spread with appeals to tier 

charity when Sheridan escaped. 

That, he decided, was really the word to use, lor ne 



44 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

had been let off lightly over Evelyn Colthurst and allowed 
to retire in good order without a single question about 
Auriol. It was not that Laura did not know of their 
friendship, though she probably preferred to call it 
" infatuation”. However reluctantly, she had long realized 
that young, intoxicating women were necessary to him, 
if his mind was to be kept fresh ; and, when he arrived 
radiant with a new discovery, she concealed her chagrin 
under an affectation of being happy for his sake. All she 
asked was that there should be no scandal. She was 
probably saying that this mission was ending what 
neither Auriol nor he was ready to end. 

“ Or bringing it to a head ? ” Sheridan asked himself. 

If in six months’ time he was still tied to Laura, if 
Auriol was still unmarried, if they were as anxious as ever 
to meet and the Otways were as anxious to keep them 
from meeting, they would all of them have to look facts 
in the face. His own feelings did not need to be explored, 
but how would the Otways cope with a problem which 
they hoped, in their muddle-headed way, to find solving 
itself ? Presumably, to begin at the beginning, they would 
have received him if he had been unmarried ; they would 
receive him as a widower ; probably they would receive 
him, after a seemly interval, if his marriage were dissolved. 

If or when,” he muttered and was surprised to find that 

he was in sight of a decision that would not wait for six 

months. When it has been dissolved,” he repeated. 

“ And » of course, after a certain interval. . .” As though 

he were waking from a dream, he discovered that Auriol, 

whom he had always regarded as unattainable, was 

within his reach. “ This wants thinking out. I must see 
Livingstone. . . 


His solicitor could at all times be trusted to face facts. 
Now, as 111 a hundred other crises, he would say " You 
can c 1: ..t. certainly," or “ It won't pay.” He would 


refrain 


-■ ^ * • i . ( 


argiiing. He would abstain from moral 



SIN FOR WHICH THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS 45 

judgements and appeals to sentiment. He would look on 
this problem, as on every problem of life, with the eyes of 
a realist. Livingstone would say “You can have a divorce, 
but you must retire from public life,’’ or “ lhe whole 
thing will be forgotten in a year,’’ or “It won t pay. 
The Otways will put their toes in the ground ; and, in 
the long run, this girl will side with them. Sheridan 
might not agree ; but, when he had stated his case, he 
was ready to be bound by Livingstone’s judgement. 

Walking slowly across the Park, he began to prepare 
his case. Within an hour—there was never any point in 
wasting time—he would know whether he or the Otways 
would win in a tug-of-war for possession of Auriol; within 
two he would know how Laura had taken the announce¬ 
ment. After ten years, she could hardly be surprised, and, 
even after ten years, it was not too late for her to make a 
new life with her schools and guilds and institutes, 
she stood to lose in divorcing him was the daily presence 
of a husband who must be a daily embarrassment to her. 

Sheridan could not be so sure of Livingstone s ver ic 
when they considered the effect on public opinion. 
Thirty years ago, divorce had been synonymous wit 
suicide for a politician. It was the sin for which there was 
no forgiveness. It had flung Parnell from power and kept 
Dilke from office. Though times had changed and opinion 
was more tolerant, the new spirit halted on reac nng e 
precincts of parliament. Sheridan could count a ozen 
men who hugged the chains of a loveless marriage or ear 
of giving new life to a dying prejudice. He cou 
perhaps three who had been cast out and permi e 
return on sufferance, not forgotten, only ha 
under the enduring shadow of their early mis ee s. 
could think of no one with whom to overw ic m ivi 
stone. If he took the risk, trusting to his persona 1 y a 
position, he must be prepared to drop out of t e runn. 
for office until the arbitrary public received him bacK 11 



46 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

favour. Livingstone would not fail to ask him whether he 
wished to time his retirement for the moment when he 
returned to England in triumph, challenging ministers to 
refuse him a place if they dared. 

There was only one answer to that question. 

“ No, by God, there’s another ! " Sheridan whispered. 
In thinking so much of Livingstone, he was borrowing the 
lawyer’s professional timidity. There must be no talk of 
retirement. Granted the triumph, any man not a lawyer 
would use it to its uttermost. After challenging ministers 
to exclude him, he would challenge the public to eject 
him. “ If they dare ! ” 

V 

As though his eyes had been suddenly opened, Sheridan 
threw up his head and walked quickly forward. 

Livingstone could be disregarded ; and Laura ; and the 
Otways. This was a venture for him to undertake hand in 
hand with Auriol, each drawing strength from the other, 
two against the world. He wished that the six months 


were over and their challenge thrown down. He hoped 
Auriol would be alone, so that he might sweep her away 
on a flood of passionate eloquence ; then he hoped that 
she would be surrounded and entrenched by her family, 
so that he might give battle without delay. 

“ I wonder what they say of me behind my back . . . ” 

Colin, no doubt, had dismissed him as a type before 
considering him as an individual. To the school of thought 
formed at Eton, in the Brigade and at the Staff College, 
the strange newcomer was always suspect. As a self-made 
and self-educated man, Sheridan must be a “ rough 
diamond ” ; as a newly rich man, he must be a vulgarian ; 
as a financier, he must be a “ city sharp ” ; as an owner 
of newspapers and an independent member of parliament, 
he must be a self-advertising adventurer. The elder sisters 
took their opinions from their husbands, who took them 
from Cohn, who v-^ t least articulate. They would 



SIN FOR WHICH THERE IS NO FORGIVENESS 47 

admit, rather grudgingly, that the fellow had done well 
by enlisting and then raising a battalion, but some one 
else was sure to add that he had done well for himself and 
that his war record was his best advertisement. No help 
could be expected of the younger generation. 

The parents were old enough to have outgrown the 
cruder prejudices of ignorance. They were also clev er 
enough to defend their ineradicable prejudices without 
exposing them. After many meetings, Sheridan could 
only guess vaguely what they thought of him : Lord 
Otway never embarked on a controversy for fear of hurting 
some one’s feelings ; his wife would argue from every 
point of view in turn, happy if she could achieve a paradox 
and content if she could shew there was nothing new' in 
life, nothing true and nothing that mattered. Between 
Lady Otway's persiflage and Otway s caution, it w as 
impossible to get an answer to any question. W hen t e 
time arrived for him to give battle, Sheridan felt uneasi y 
that he would be begged not to raise his voice, per aps 
adjured to recognize that people must sometimes agree 
to differ. To argue with the plump and smiling Lady 
Otway was like pommelling a feather-bed. He w as 0 ige 
to fight them on their own ground with the weapons 0 
their choosing ; if he used his native strengt , e w ou 
justify them in all that they feared from his antecedents 
If he could not come by good breeding, they wou 
that he might at least have studied good manners. 

A car passed him as he crossed Manchester quar , 
and Sheridan caught sight of Lord Otway, thin, erec ^ 
closely buttoned. He hurried forward , and t ey en 

the house together. . . , « Anr jol 

“ I've come to say good-bye," he explaine 

was good enough to invite me to lunch. 

•* She’s off next week,” answered Lord Otway with 

a frown. 


i 1 


She ... ? 


II 


I 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 



“ Didn’t you know ? Her mother’s taking her abroad. 
She ought to see something of the world ; and, if she 
really means to take up politics, this is the time, before 
she gets too much caught up.” 

Sheridan murmured his agreement and reviewed the 
announcement in relation to Lord Otway’s manner in 
making it. This idea of a tour abroad was come to birth, 
fully armed, since last he had seen Auriol and before his 
own mission was made public. It engrossed her father’s 
mind so much that he could spare no thought for the 
subject that every one else was discussing ; and he threw 
out the news rather as if he did not exp ct to be believed. 
Sheridan chose to fancy that the family was divided and 
that Auriol was being sent abroad to be protected from 
unsettling influences. 

“ 1 didn’t know anything about this. I came to say good¬ 
bye on my own account. In a very few days now ...” 

" Ah, yes ! Your mission ! I want to hear about that.” 

" Auriol ’ s dead against it. She thinks I must be mad. 
I want to know why.” 

“ 1 shouldn’t pay too much attention to what she says. 

After all, she’s only a child. And, because people like you 

listen to her nonsense and encourage her to air her 

opinions on all subjects, she thinks they have a real 
value.” 

" I think they have a real value. I think she’s the most 
brilliant girl I’ve ever met.” 


Lord Otway shrugged his shoulders helplessly as 
though he would have liked to argue the point, but thought 
it better that they should agree to differ. 

“ It's not good for her to know that,” he sighed, as he 
led the way upstairs. " She's in danger of having her head 

Tn rne n . 3 y rm n0t SOrry She ’ s g° in g abroad. 

Ihis hot-house atmosphere . . 

A, ri 6 , br ° ke “ they came int0 the drawing-room and 
Auriol juiupe. . up to greet them. 



CHAPTER II 


The Creed of a Realist 


Oh those mute myriads that spoke loud to me— 

The eyes that craved to see the light, the mouths 
That sought the daily bread and nothing more, 

The hands that supplicated exercise. 

Men that had wives, and women that had babes, 

And all these making suit to only live ! . _ . 

Robert Browning: Prince HohcnsUcl-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 


I N the morning hours of their friendship, when Sheridan 
expressed surprise that any one, unless compelled, 
should live in a certain street, Auriol had improvised a 
theory that each district of London possessed a pro¬ 
tective colouring for its inhabitants and that, when a 
man said he was looking for a suitable house, it would be 
almost as accurate to say that a house was looking for 

a suitable tenant. „ . _ v 

•* I can imagine you in Grosvenor Square, she 

plained, “but never in Green Street And I don 

think you could imagine us anywhere but Manchester 

Square. There’s something peculiarly iate-Victoria 

about Manchester Square. The Wallace CoUec 1 , 

dowager duchesses in reduced circumstances survivors 

from Mr. Gladstone's last ministry. Something so 

and rather gloomy ; all the better for a coat of paint 

The description had recurred to Sheridan s nund 

accompanied Lord Otway upstairs. Manchester Square 

seemed always to have escaped the hurricanes of change 

A chair-ridden man, seated year after year at one 

49 



5 o SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

these sombre windows might notice that carriages and 
hansom-cabs had given place to motor-cars and taxis, 
but he would know nothing of the trains that roared 
under Oxford Street nor of the omnibuses that raced 
by the great new shops and department-stores. The 
rising tide of democracy, the lightning-flashes of scientific 
discovery, the thunderbolts of war and revolution might 
assail the rest of London but these few quiet squares 
remained untouched. The invalid by the window could 
hardly have been surprised to see frock-coated young 
men walking with girls in leg-of-mutton blouses, or 
whiskered young men with women in bustles. During 
the war, he had been told by Auriol, her grandmother, 
discoursing of modern manners to a contemporary, saw 
no objection to dancing through a crisis. “We used to 
dance," she told her girlhood’s admirer, “ in the last war.” 
And no one dared remind the old lady that the Crimean 
War was not the last war. 

Manchester Square would certainly have been the 
better for a coat of paint ; and some of its inhabitants, 
Sheridan reflected, would be none the worse for a mental 
spring-cleaning. There were times when he felt uncertain 
even of Auriol, fearing to find her an Otway under a 
veneer; times when his image of her as an untram¬ 
melled mind and an ardent spirit seemed an image of 
his own creation. Had her youth and good looks led him 
to idealize her ? Had Laura and Evelyn Colthurst, the 
one so faded and the other so little refined, caused him 
to idealize even Auriol’s looks and manner ? As they 
shook hands, Sheridan felt a stab of misgiving that the 
thoroughbred quality which he seemed always to find in 
her had been imparted by his imagination. Was he 
preparing to do battle for some one who might prove to 
be commonplace ? Women were never so wonderful as 

they seemed; they never continued so alluring as at 
the moment of discovery. 



5i 


THE CREED OF A REALIST 

She was sitting with her back to the light, as he came 
in, but her poise and line reassured him. 

“ Look what Max has sent me ! It’s my birthday ! 
I’m twenty-two.” Her voice, bell-clear and rippling with 
happiness, had not changed. She brandished a cocktail- 
shaker in one hand, wiping the other on a tiny coloured 
handkerchief. Soft and strong, her hand had not changed 
either ; and, as she turned to the light, he was not dis¬ 
appointed. “ I suppose you don’t know how to mix 
these things, do you ? ” 

Sheridan smiled and carried the shaker to a table by 
the window : 

“ Many happy returns of the day, Auriol. Twenty- 
two ? Rather before you were born, I was waving one 
of these things about for a living,” he answered. 

Lord Otway looked mildly uncomfortable, but the girl’s 

eyes sparkled. 

“ What a glorious life ! Do tell me!” 

Sheridan smiled at her eagerness and addressed himself 
to the bottles on the table. No, he had not idealized her 
looks nor her indefinable thoroughbred quality ! The 
first made him hungry for her, the second restrained 
him with a reminder that she was not an E\ el) n Colt- 
hurst. Placed side by side, Evelyn had greater beauty 
of feature ; and her frankly voluptuous lips and eyes 
were more immediately provocative than Auriol s vir¬ 
ginal daintiness. For one man, however, that E\e)n 
might momentarily attract, Auriol would attract and 
hold a dozen, attacking head and heart, imagination 
and curiosity, without revealing—perhaps without know- 
ing—that any of them had even noticed her. dhis uncon¬ 
sciousness of her power disabled a man more complete y 
than her curious detachment in talking of hersel . o 
the artists who tried to paint her, she explained that her 
face was made up of two parts which had nothing to do 
with each other. “ Quite a good forehead, if I had a nose 


52 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

and mouth to go with it. And quite an amusing nose and 
mouth, if you take them by themselves. You should see 
me in a domino ! ” 

Glancing up as he began to shake the cocktails, Sheridan 
felt that he was being watched by two people. The eager 
lips were ready to mock him, the pointed chin to jerk in 
disdain and the nose to wrinkle like an impudent school¬ 
boy’s if he made a mistake ; the deep-set hazel eyes, 
however, were steady and serious, the broad, high forehead 
was bent in contemplation, as though a philosopher 
were studying a new system. Half man, half boy, she 
was more essentially feminine than any woman Sheridan 
had met, though her hair was cut short and fell back in 
thick chestnut waves from a boy’s side-parting. 

“ Tell me ! ” she repeated, pushing back her hair with 
impatient fingers that seemed to draw copper light from 
the chestnut. 

Her tone made Sheridan feel that she was accustomed 
to being obeyed. 

" There’s nothing to tell. I didn’t care much about 
it, watching other people get drunk. I drank nothing 
in those days. I gambled a bit, though, and, before I 
was through, the others were settling in kind. As a result, 
I remember having two sheep-farms, half a radical paper, 
one general store and an interest in a gold-mine.” He 
paused to hand the cocktails round. ” It’s wonderful 
what you can pick up on the spot. People in England 
heard of that gold-mine two years later.” 

“ And you’d finished with it by then ? ” 

He turned to find that Lady Otway had come in 
unobserved and was listening with the smile that never 
told whether she was laughing with him or at him. 

I was the other side of the world by then,” he answered 
cautiously. “ i hear you’re going abroad, Lady Otway.” 

And y<,:' too ! How’s Mrs. Sheridan ? I can never 
persuade 1-c. to come here.” 



53 


THE CREED OF A REALIST 


Glancing at his plump, enigmatic antagonist, Sheridan 
decided that, if she was to be won over to his side, he 
could not well begin too soon the task of dieting her w ith 

new and unpalatable ideas. 

“ We don’t go out together much. In the phrase of the 

day, we rather cramp each other’s style.” 

Lord Otway, with a sympathetic cluck, turned to exam¬ 
ine the labels of the vermouth bottles and left his wife to 


extricate herself. 

“ Oh, I’m sorry ! If only I d known. ... 

“ But isn’t it common property ? ” asked Sheridan. 
“ When there are facts to face, I always think it s better 
to face them boldly. One makes mistakes when one s 
young; one doesn’t allow sufficiently for change. I 
feel my marriage came to an end ten years ago. Some¬ 
times I’ve wondered whether divorce, a new start . . . 

“ Don’t let's have any more divorce ! ” exclaimed 
Lord Otway. “At least . . . every man must judge for 
himself. We can’t lead other people’s lives for them or 
thrust our ideas down other people’s throats . . . 

“ You don't approve of divorce ? ” 

Lord Otway finished his cocktail and coughed awkwardly 
“ I don’t,” drawled Lady Otway ; “ but then I m no 
sure I don’t disapprove of marriage more It doesn t do 
any good to say these things, of course, though most o 
the harm in life is done by the people who won t say 
things.” Refusing the proffered cocktail, she sl *PP 
comfortably into her favourite vein of universal scept 
cism. “ I’m always saying things. I often say that peop 
shouldn’t be allowed to have children till they ve shewn 
that their marriage is likely to be permanent; and they 
oughtn’t to marry till they’ve lived together fora^couple 

of years. You remember my taking you to 

Road, Auriol ? Tell me about this mission, Mr. Shmdan. 

You’re going to pull the empire together, aren t y , 

or something ? ” 



54 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“ The terms of reference . . he began, only to stop 
on the brink of becoming pompous. Before he left the 
house, he was resolved to impress the Otways, but this 
vague woman with her baby face and sleepy eyes punc¬ 
tured his high seriousness with flippancy that could hardly 
be unpremeditated. Sheridan decided that, unless he 
studied her methods and turned them against her, he was 
in danger of finding his suit and himself laughed off the 
stage. “ The terms of reference are pretty wide. If we 


can reconstruct the empire in our spare time . . .” 

“ I only hope you’ll resist the temptation,” interrupted 
Lady Otway. “ Chilled meat is just as unpleasant when 
it comes from Australia as from the Argentine ; and 
patriotism should stop short of the digestion. Our over¬ 
seas dominions are always trying to hit us below the belt, 
talking of which, I suppose you all know luncheon’s 
ready and waiting. It's only ourselves, I’m afraid, Mr. 
Sheridan, but I look on you almost as one of the family.” 

As she led the way downstairs, still good-humouredly 
prattling, Sheridan tried to imagine what she meant by 
calling him almost a member of the family. Was this a 
hint that he haunted the house ? Did they refer to him 
behind his back as “ the family skeleton ” ? 


He was glad, for some reasons, that the Cavalys and 
Wainwrights were not present : it would be time enough 
for him to meet their thinly disguised hostility when he 
had made plain his intentions to Lady Otway. At the 
same time this was the moment of his greatest public 
recognition , and he would not have been sorry to let 
them see him as the man who was called in to lift a burden 
under which every one else had sunk down crushed. For 
the first half of luncheon he allowed Auriol and her 
parents to make their own picture of him. Yes it was a 
great responsibility. Yes, if he failed, he would lose 
whatever influence he now enjoyed. Yes, a great many' 
people would like to see him failing. No, one could not 



55 


THE CREED OF A REALIST 

refuse such an invitation ; and, if he did not seem arro¬ 
gant, he did not expect to fail. Yes, he had spent some 
years in Canada. Yes, he knew Australia well in the old 
days. And South Africa. Yes, he had probably visited 
most parts of the empire. That, no doubt, was why Mr. 
Standish had chosen him ; that, if Lady Otway would 
allow him to say so, was why he really hoped to find time 
for “ pulling the empire together”, as she called it. The 
empire seemed worth it. From what he had seen of it, 

from what he had read ... 

By meeting flippancy with flippancy, Sheridan dis¬ 
covered half-way through the meal that he had won 
Lady Otway’s attention. Probably, like the rest of her 
breed, she was bored and frightened by the high-falutin , 
but she ceased to scoff when he discoursed idly of remote, 
forgotten places and men as he had known them in his 
first years of work and wandering. Still half in jest, he 
described his discovery of the empire and waited, with 
the restraint of a practised orator, while the spell of the 
imperial idea stole over his audience From the first 
Auriol had been listening with parted lips endL shmi g 
eyes; at some point they were all talking of distan 
and areas ; by the end of luncheon Lord Otvs ay w as 
saying that even the puny empire of the Caesars ren ?“ne 
unintelligible to him in that it held together without 

modern means of communication. « T 

" You had the majesty of Augustus behind y • 

stand at Char's judgement-seat, where I ought to be 

judged 7 ’ quoted Sheridan. " To me that is the most 

^ ® Paul's life You \ e been 

tremendous moment in Saint Paul. • 

watching the rise and spread of a religion > ^ 

is going to encircle the globe ; and you su J , 

Judaism and young Christianity set in P e P 

.this appeal to Osar. It overrides ‘^Alung^dh* 

authority of Rome, coterminous \m Roman 

world, is suddenly invoked. But how small the Roman 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 



empire seems by comparison with our own ! The Mediter¬ 
ranean basin, a belt of hinterland stretching out as one 
man after another tried to find scientific frontiers : that 
is all! Contrast the protection which Rome gave Saint 
Paul with the protection that a British missionary could 
claim from Mexico to Pekin, from Patagonia to Abyssinia. 
I only once diverted the British navy to my private uses,” 
he continued with a smile. “ That was when a gun-boat 
came to my rescue on the north coast of China. And 
I’ve only once taken refuge behind a British consul. 
That was in Celebes. ‘ Hast thou appealed unto Caesar ? * 
I knew the meaning of that phrase then.” 

As he paused, the temperature of the room fell. To 
Lady Otway, the pause—like the speech preceding it— 
must have seemed a thought too well calculated and 
dramatic, for she hastened to achieve an anti-climax 
by enquiring if any one could tell her where Celebes 
might be. She was really ashamed to ask, but geography 

was a thing that she never had known and never would 
know. 

“ What took you abroad in the first place ? ” she 
continued, when Auriol and Lord Otway had demon¬ 
strated the position of Dutch India with the aid of the 
cruets. 

Sheridan roused with a start: 

" I had to escape.” 

” Escape ? ” repeated Lord Otway. 

Sheridan nodded and turned with a sudden smile to 
Lady Otway : 

“ From poverty, or something of the kind. Starvation 
or what-not.” 


His good-humour won him forgiveness for his faintly 
malicious mimicry of her bored drawl. 

A Y °A-j r ' er ’ had a P rett y rou gh time in the early 
unelsily dnt y ° U ? ” Lord 0twa y asked and waited 



57 


44 


41 


THE CREED OF A REALIST 

“No worse than the majority/’ Sheridan answered 
unexpectedly. 

But when you talk about starvation . . . ? 

I mean it! But the majority of mankind, year in, 
year out, taking one place with another, is half-star\ ed ! 
That’s not the worst of human afflictions, though : I 
had in mind more the starvation of soul than of body. 
As a boy I believe I always had enough to eat : but, even 
as a boy, I wasn’t satisfied with my prospects. The narrow, 
squalid surroundings in which I was reared were a blot 
on any moderately prosperous or enlightened country. 
At first, I said simply that I must get out of them ; 
later, when I'd experienced the difficulties of escape, I 
said that no man must be left to fester there.” As though 
conscious that he was being carried away by his own 
feelings, he turned to Lord Otway with a smile that dis¬ 
claimed all intention of laying a trap. “ I m afraid this 
must sound the worst kind of Clydeside rant. 

“ Not that! I was thinking, though, that, even if you 
divided the wealth of the world into equal parts or con¬ 
trived a means of giving an equal start to all, you d find 
inequality creeping in immediately. We aren t^bom 
with equal ability, we have to find our level . . . 

“ But that,” Sheridan interrupted, " you will never do 
so long as one class is held down by inadequate nourish¬ 
ment, low vitality and defective education and another 
not necessarily a better—is bolstered up by t e t lousan 
and one tiny, indefinable influences that keep the ascend¬ 
ant class in the ascendant.” Lord Otway s shrug tynted 
that this was a point on which they had better agree 
differ. “ I felt I had a mission to preach and to work 
for equality of opportunity,” Sheridan cont |^ ; 
“ People will tell you that, since I’ve become a capitali 
—whatever that may mean—I ve lost my ear y sv 
pathies. If I had, I might be more popular m such a 
company as this,” he laughed. “ If I had, I should not 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 



retain the confidence of the people whom I championed 
in my first youth . . . the people from whom I sprang. 
To my activities in those days you may trace the present 
distrust in which I’m held : I’d ‘ talked with crowds' ; 
I ‘ kept the common touch ’/’he continued with a passing 
hint of defiance. “ That is why I gave all my support 
to labour till it tottered and fell by the top-heavy weight 
of its own ineptitude. . . . But that’s a far cry from 
those early days, the days when I felt I had a mission. . . . 
If it’s not a rude question, Lady Otway, are these car¬ 
nations from Lokshott ? If not, I wish you’d tell me 
where you get them.” 

“ Oh, never mind the carnations ! ” Auriol exclaimed. 

“ But I can’t get any to compare with these . . 

“ ‘ you will compel me then to read the will?” mur¬ 
mured Lady Otway. 

If the words carried to her husband or Auriol, neither 

shewed a sign of recognizing the quotation, but for a 

moment Sheridan’s self-possession deserted him. This 

placid woman with the white hair and the sleepy eyes 

had marked and appraised each trick of oratory and was 

openly mocking his effort to lash Auriol’s interest with 
simulated indifference. 

“ 1 feel IVe been monopolizing the conversation,” he 
apologized. 


Should he go on, well knowing that Ladv Otway was 
whispering " play-actor " to herself ? Should he shew her 
that she could deflate his eloquence at will ? Or that he 

was insensible to the malicious interruption as to every 
other ? He could talk her down ! 


It mus be on some other occasion, though, some other 
topic. About the martyrdom of his early days he never 
poke for effect, never posed and never twisted truth. 

w-hlh th bem , g f huddled in ^ies and kennels 

which the Otways would reject for an animal; in them 



59 


THE CREED OF A REALIST 

these human beings became animals, brutal and promis¬ 
cuous. Their excitement was betting ; their consolation 
drink. Unemployment haunted their prime and destitu¬ 
tion dogged their old age. In spite of it all so much 
older and wiser than civilization were the bodies which 
civilization stunted—the decay could be arrested. When 
the war came, authority straightened the bent frames 
of these people and trained their muscles. Authority 
put air into their lungs and filled their children s bellies. 
It doctored their peering eyes and pulled out their rotting 
teeth. Of the survivors, a high proportion were beginning 
—by the end of the war—to look like human beings again. 

Sheridan frowned and asked leave to examine the car¬ 
nations more closely. This was a subject on which he 
could not trust himself to speak with restraint , thoug 
he did not call himself a Christian, he could not be sure 
of remaining patient with the flippant wits who jeste 
about the crucifixion. The condemnation of every one 
at that table lay in the tacit admission that they had 
achieved, in panic, what they protested was impossi e 
before panic shewed the way. This feeding and training 
could all have been done before, but it was no one s 
business till the war made everybody the vital business 
of everybody else. Even so, there were numbered in their 
thousands the physical wrecks to whom the army said : 

“ We cannot use you in any shape or form. 

Mistrusting party-labels, Sheridan had entered the 
House of Commons as a radical in the belief that the 
radicals were clearing up this sty-and-kennel lie, m e 
intervals of more pressing engagements. If they iaile 
to solve the problems of drink and education, t ey a 
least admitted that the problems were waiting to )e so \ e . 
They opened their eyes and observed that the kenne s 
and sties really were not houses. They damme es 1 
tution with old-age pensions; they fought disease and 
unemployment. If their progress was slow and belated, 



6 o SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

it could not be called inconsiderable by any one who 
remembered that they were distracted by one election 
after another, by antics of pantaloons that turned the 
House of Lords into the scene of a harlequinade, by mean¬ 
ingless and unnecessary squabbles in Ireland which the 
English of a hundred years hence would understand no 
more than they, in their generation, understood the 
Gordon riots. . . . And then the war came . . . 

“ I try not to think of anything that happened before 
the war,” said Sheridan, as the silence all round him 
shewed that an answer was expected. “ Don’t think I 
feel any shame for the part I played ! ” he begged Lord 
Otway. “ It’s only that the pre-war world has become a 
complex with so many people, breaking into their con¬ 
templation of the world since the war. I want to date 
everything from the fourth of August, nineteen-fourteen. 
Heavens, this has nothing to do with my early travels, 
but it may explain—if any one wants an explanation— 
why I have frankly boxed the political compass in the 
last ten years. On the fourth of August I took stock and 
found I was building on sand ! Well, by that time I’d 
made all the money I needed. I had the ear of the country 
and an independent position in politics. I had a press of 
my own. And ... I had my original mission. The fourth 
of August taught me, however, that it was idle to erect 
houses in the place of pig-sties if they were to be at the 
mercy of the first fool that started a war. Security . . . 
Security became an antecedent condition. We must 
make life possible before we could make it decent. When 
the liberal party disappeared, I turned to labour. Not 
for long. ... I had to dig deeper. During the war, 
I thought only of winning the war. After the war, 
I thought only of preventing another. And the prevention 
—the only prevention, as I see it—lies in a vast imperial 
reorganization : an empire, as I’ve said, organized on 
business fines, with the fixed objective of peace; an empire 



THE CREED OF A REALIST 61 

so efficient—and therefore so powerful—that it could 
divide with the United States the control of the world. 
I believe that the conservative party can help me best 
to attain that, but it must be something bigger than the 
conservative party has ever imagined, an empire that, 
sooner or later, must co-operate with the United States.. . . 
This mission is my opportunity. But I’ve talked all this 
time without answering your question, Otway ! I went 
away to escape ! I ran away to sea. I’m afraid I deserted 
from my ship. You don’t want to hear the whole of my 

discreditable history ? You do ? . . . 



Luncheon had come to an end before the tale of his 
adventures ; and he only broke off when Colin Otway 
looked in with a present for Auriol and stayed to drink 
her health. His manner, to Sheridan’s thinking, stiffened 
when he found a stranger present; and, as he pulled in a 
chair beside his father’s, Sheridan felt he was being given 
fair warning that, when the thin, erect head of the family 
in one generation was no longer able to guard the door 
against intruders, his successor would be at hand, red 
of face, black of hair, closely-buttoned and taciturn, to 


relieve him. , . . , ^ » 

“ Mr. Sheridan has been telling us about his trave , 

explained Lady Otway. " What a pity we didn t know 
you in those days ! We might be so much richer now ! 

Sheridan smiled to himself at the contrast between 
these safe, conventional stay-at-homes and t e men u 
had gone out to make hurried fortunes wherever they 
were \o be found. He tried to picture Cohn digging 
for gold in Australia or growing rubber in the M y 
States; he could see Lord Otway participating in a 
Brazilian diamond-rush or a Canadian land-boom, as s 
many of his kind had participated already arnvmg 4 
late, half-expecting the British minister or ie p 



62 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


of their hotel to direct them to the nearest diamond-field 
and send them there by car, finally returning home in 
disgust when they found that others had been before them. 
He himself had sometimes arrived too late for one thing, 
but he had always turned his attention to another. In 
the diamond-venture, he never handled a diamond, but 
he acquired some profitable sugar-mills. There was always 
something to buy : a mine, a port, a line, a paper. His 
ships had flown his house-flag from East London to 
Hobart, though he had never set out to be a ship-owner. 

“ People say it’s harder to make money than it used 
to be. I doubt it,” he answered, with his eye on Colin. 

It would do this rigid and scornful young man no harm 
to share Lady Otway’s diet of new ideas. Of his kind, 
Colin was the best specimen that Sheridan had met for 
many years : an efficient soldier, devoured by enthusiasm 
for his work, the heir to a responsible position with ideals 
of public service that were none the less exalted for being 
ill-expressed. Much could be made of Colin when he had 
learned that it was possible to believe in the excellence of 
his own school and regiment and order without belittling 
and misconstruing every one who belonged to a different 
school or order. 

“ Wish you'd shew me how it’s to be done,” Colin 
grunted. 

“ You can make money at any time if you’re on the 
spot and if you ve a little money to start the wheels 
moving. But it’s no use being in London when the rubber’s 
in Malay a , it s no use taking at swollen prices what the 
man on the spot has rejected months before ; it’s no use 
thinking that your deputy 7 will make money 7 for you 
if he can make it for himself. I’m certainly no abler than 
scores of other men ; and the only luck I've known is 
that my Maker gave me an instinct for what average men 
and women are likely to want at average times. People 
m this countr y are too shy of the unfamiliar. Now, I’ve 



THE CREED OF A REALIST 63 

tried my hand at most things, from dairy-farming to 
gun-running. I knew nothing of either, but that happened 
to be the market of the day. Dairy farms were going 
cheap ; and I bought literally for all I was worth. Guns 
were wanted by a rebel party in Ecuador ; and I sold for 
all I was worth. On both occasions I just happened to 
be on the spot ; but, if I’d been in Cuba or at the Cape, 
I should have found something that was going cheap 
or something that was in fantastic demand.” 

“ It’s easier to be in the right place at the right time 
if you have no ties to any one country,” observed Lord 
Otway. 

“ I have ties in a dozen ! And I regard them as safe¬ 
guards rather than encumbrances. All my life I ve ne\ er 
known where I should be in five years time. Now, we 
were talking about divorce before luncheon. I m told 
that the public here wouldn’t tolerate me after a di\ orce. 
I don’t believe it; but, if it were true, I could make a 
life, a position, a career for myself in half a dozen other 
places. It was worth keeping a finger in the press or the 
finances of these other places. I could start again without 
wasting time in cutting new footholds. That won t be 
necessary, though.” 

Ill 

The unexpected reference to divorce produced a silence 
which Sheridan left his audience to break. Lord Otway 
had already expressed a vague distaste entirely in keeping 
with his age, his connections, his utterances on divorce- 
bills in the House of Lords and—most strongly of all— 
his late-Victorian setting. Anything, he seemed to be 
saying, might happen south of Oxford Street, but in 
Manchester Square they were simple, old-fashioned fol 
who believed in the sanctity of married life and the 
validity of marriage-vows. 

Having indicated his feelings once, he would not 



64 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

repeat himself; and Sheridan waited for some one else 

to take up the challenge. Colin was talking to his sister 

in an undertone, as though to hint that, if a man must 

wash his domestic linen publicly, it was best to ignore 

him ; Auriol was listening and nodding as though she 

felt that in the second quarter of the twentieth century 

it was no one else’s business whether a man divorced his 

wife or let her divorce him or lived with a mistress. Lady 

Otway was smiling at her own thoughts. The silence was 

ended when Colin finished his conversation and stood 
up to go. 

“ Wait for some coffee,” his mother urged. " You’re 
m no hurry, Mr. Sheridan ? I want to study you.” 
ti * am at y° ur service,” Sheridan laughed. 

" You interest me ; I'm wondering if I like you.” 
Darling ! ” Auriol protested. 

" What’s the matter ? Mr. Sheridan has been quite 
carnhd wth US; and I’m sure he’d like us to be candid 
with him. I m wondering what he’s up to. Is there a 
fire in your room ? Then let’s have coffee there.” 

1 hough Colin had announced that he could only stay 
a moment, Sheridan observed that he had decided to 
keep them company. Perhaps he was interested in their 
conversation ; perhaps he designed to keep the ranks 
ol the family unbroken. 

You're off quite soon now, aren’t you, sir ? ” was his 
sole effort at cordiality as they made their way to Auriol’s 
sitting-room at the back of the house. 

While they waited for their coffee, Sheridan lingered 

law a of m hT nt ^° re Auriol's bookcases. The morf one 

how thev slT °a ^ family ’ the harder it was to explain 
r J n ‘rt y A ^ d a nearer ancestor than Adam ! Huxley 

Strachev and r' ^f^ 113 : Sie S fried Sassoon ; Lytton 
Did thev Gue dalla Did the Otways read these books ? 

jf no? did P th° Ve Pr6SenCe in Manc bester Square ? 

not, did they exercise any control over this spiritual 



65 


THE CREED OF A REALIST 

changeling who seemed to feed indiscriminately on poetry 
and economics, plays and blue-books ? Her walls and 
tables were covered with signed photographs of writers, 
artists and politicians who seemed to have nothing more 
in common than that each was the most advanced 
of his kind. Like the rest of her generation, Auriol smoked 
and drank cocktails and went unattended in a way that 
Sheridan would not have permitted to his own daughter; but 
the rest of her generation had not the Otways for parents. 
They could not approve ; were they afraid to check her ? ^ 
“ You were speaking about your terms of reference ... 

began Lord Otway. 

Sheridan was so much absorbed in the problem of 
Auriol’s relations with her family that he turned with a 
start at finding himself addressed. Unwittingly, he 
looked first for Auriol and discovered her draped along 
the back of a sofa, chin on fists and heels in air, watching 
him. Her eyes fell, as he turned, but not before he had 
caught an expression that puzzled him. Solemn, expectant, 
rapt: what did it mean ? He had never before seen 
Auriol looking like that: she reminded him curiously of 
a retriever lying at her master’s feet, gazing up and waiting 
for the tiny stir that would shew he was going to take 

her out. . . , 

“ Nominally I’m to investigate communications and 

labour-supply,” he answered in his most businesslike 
tone. “ Standish hopes I can find him a cure for unem¬ 
ployment,” he added. “Actually. ... Well, I’ve told 
you. I’ve been mixed up with many kinds of enterprises 
and every one of them would have been bankrupt if 
I’d run it as this empire is being run. We’ve been saved 
by luck, by natural resources and by the amazing tenacity 

of the British people.” „ , 

“ By their amazing power of improvisation, suggested 

Lady Otway. “ It’s the one form of genius that the 
British race has evolved.” _ 



66 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


" Curing pneumonia was the one form of genius that 
my late father-in-law evolved,” Sheridan rejoined. “ If 
you went to him with an ordinary cold, he turned it into 
pneumonia and then cured you. Or so people say. It 
was . . . drastic. I’m afraid I hate improvisation. I 
hate muddle and waste. And I believe humanity benefits 
by the British empire.” 

" Do you care much about humanity ? ” 

“ I care about efficiency. I should like to make human¬ 
ity efficient. It appeals to the imagination.” 

“And to the taste for power ? ” 

Sheridan smiled and looked about him for a chair 
This duel was diverting ! As a rule, the women he met 
were so anxious to agree with his lightest word, from fear 
or in the hope of favour ; it was a new experience, in a 
party of five, to discover a girl with the assurance of an 
old woman and an old woman with the directness and 
intuition of a child. Some day, when the game was over, 
he would like to replay it, explaining each of his moves 
and learning the purpose of hers. Otway and the boy cut 
a poor figure beside their womenkind. 

“ 1 was once,” Sheridan recalled, '* cast upon an island 
inhabited by a man who’d lived the life of a hermit for 
thirty years. He had no taste for power : he was the only 
man I ever met who hadn’t.” 

“A taste for power . . .” Lord Otway began. 

“ Once you admit the taste, you must admit the conse¬ 
quences that it entails : a certain impatience, a certain 
hardness, a certain dependence on limelight. In a word, 
my more conspicuous failings.” 

Lady Otway smiled and shifted her attack : 

. “ 1 saw in Who ' s } Vho the other day that you’d been 
given that medal thing for saving life at sea. You don’t 

mind being asked questions ? How did you come by that?” 

Prom the c'-ruer of one eye Sheridan saw that Auriol 
had raiseo Aer head and was hanging on his answer. 



THE CREED OF A REALIST 67 

He saw, too, that Lord Otway and Colin were staring 
at their boots in dread that he was going to make a hero 
of himself for a couple of women. 

“ I gave the Royal Humane Society no peace. The scene 
was carefully stage-managed ; I had my witnesses.” 

“ Was it done for advertisement ? Limelight ? ” 
Though both the speakers were enjoying their set-to, 
the calm question brought Auriol to her feet in a flush 

of protective indignation. 

“ Mummy, how dare you ! ” she cried. 

The men, Sheridan thought, looked embarrassed ; and 
he was now sure that Colin had called him self-ad\ er¬ 
asing ” in hastening into the ranks and urging the millions 

of his readers to follow his example. 

" It’s a perfectly proper question,” he answered good- 
humouredly. “ No, that wasn’t my first idea, though of 
course I saw the advertising possibilities. The fact was, 
I lost my head. There’s a convention that one does jump 
in when a child falls overboard ; and I jumped without 
ever stopping to consider that I was a man who d made 
good, with one career behind me and another in front, 
while this brat might grow up into a criminal, a waster, 
an imbecile. It just shews the harm of not overhauling 

the ideas you’ve been brought up in. 

The apparent cynicism of the answer angered Auriol 

more than the original question. 

“ The one is as bad as the other ! ” she exclaimed 

in disgust. 

“ I should imagine that’s the truest word Mr. Sheridan 
has ever spoken,” said Lady Otway. " Humanity in bulk 
appeals to his imagination, when he’s made it efficient, 
but he takes no interest in the individuals who make 
up humanity. Isn’t that so ? You’re quite callous ? ” 
“No more than other men ; I pretend less than they 

do. I’m a realist.” 

“ Rather more ruthless, then ? ” 



68 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“ The greatest good of the greatest number is always 
being sacrificed to the incompetence or ill intention of 
the few whom no one is ruthless enough to destroy. 
You see it in every government, on every board of direc¬ 
tors. Men who may have been useful once . . 

“You measure every man by the use you can make of 
him ? ” Lady Otway interrupted. 

“ Who does not ? ” 

IV 

Before any one could answer him, Colin stood up with 
a whispered apology and slipped out of the room. If his 
action was not intended as a protest, it might all too easily 
be mistaken for one ; and Lord Otway made haste to 
obliterate the manner of his going. 

“You mean that ? ” he asked, moving to the fireplace 
and addressing Sheridan over his shoulder. “ Somebody 
once defined a gentleman as one who put more into the 
world than he took out. I should say we’re divided into 
those who make ourselves useful to others and those who 
make others useful to us. I should be sorry to think that 
any one would put me, or you, or my wife, or Auriol 
into the second category.” 

“ I’m not a gentleman by birth,” Sheridan answered 
with a laugh ; “ and I doubt if either business or politics 
tends to make many gentlemen in practice. Whether I 
am putting more into the world than I take out, whether 
I am exploiting or serving humanity I must leave others 
to say. I assert frankly, however, that I choose my poli¬ 
tical associates in the belief and hope that I can use them. 
Why, what earthly reason otherwise should I have for 
sitting on the same platform as Standish and Orpington ?” 

“ Or they with you ? ” interposed a quiet voice. 

Auriol had lain so long without speaking that the others 
had forgotten her. 

“ Or they . . . ? ” Sheridan echoed. 



THE CREED OF A REALIST 69 

“ They believe they can use you. That’s why I said you 
must be mad to take this mission,” she explained. 

“ Mr. Sheridan has said that he expects to make a 
success of it,” said Lord Otway. “ If he does, no one can 
doubt the wisdom of his undertaking it. He will have 
the ball at his feet.” He was interrupted by the soft 
chime of a clock." Half-past three ! My dear, we must 

ask Mr. Sheridan to excuse us . . 

With a sigh of regret at being dragged away from a 
spectacle that amused her, Lady Otway stood up and 

shook hands: 

“ We have to hurry away. So sorry ! There’s no reason 
why you shouldn’t finish your cigar in peace, if you don’t 
mind being left with Auriol. It’s been so interesting to 

hear you . . 

" I don’t know that I’ve said anything very new . . . 
Sheridan protested. 

Half-past three ! He should have left half an hour ago 
and more ! In part he had lost count of time, in part he 
had been awaiting an opportunity of forcing the conver¬ 
sation back to the question what a man should do when 
in fact his marriage had come to an end ten years before 
and he wanted to take a new wife. With her charming, 
if sometimes exasperating, lack of concentration Lady 
Otway had led him a wild-goose chase over Humane 
Society medals and desert islands and the short definition 

of a gentleman. 

“ it’s the way you said it,” she was now answen g 

enigmatically. A , 

Sheridan walked into the hall and came back to find 

Auriol cross-legged on a cushion in front of the lire. 

The bookcase with its modem novelists and poets r - 

minded him of his earlier puzzling. Very few months 

had passed since he was begged not to visit Auriol at 

Cambridge, not to take her out to dinner not m ehec 

to see her unless the family was at hand. Now that he 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


70 

was " almost one of the family ”—whatever that might 
mean—he was left alone with her. Did the Otways 
think that he would make love to her abroad but not at 
home ? Were they washing their hands of her ? Or had 
they suddenly discovered that he was a man to be 
trusted ? More strongly than ever, Sheridan would have 
liked to hear from Auriol what the family thought of 
him, but, whenever they were alone, she became curiously 
impersonal and detached, talking as though she were a 
man of his own age. Now, for five minutes, she spoke as 
Livingstone might have spoken when Livingstone was 
in a vein of gentle reproach, rebuking him for seeking 
advice when it was too late. 

“ You can’t go back now,” she began, " but it was a 
ghastly mistake. You’re playing their game. When Mr. 
Standish formed his government, you had a right to be 
included. He was overpersuaded at the time, but you 
could have enforced your claim. Now you’re letting them 
send you into exile for six months.” 

“ Six months is not long. Except when I spend it 
away from you, Auriol,” he ventured with a smile. 

“ But they’ve set a trap for you. If you came back 
victorious in six months’ time, it would be different, but 
they’re giving you a problem they can’t solve for them¬ 
selves in the hope you’ll break yourself.” 

Sheridan strolled to the window and stood, uncon¬ 
scious that he was posing, in the attitude which had en¬ 
deared him to caricaturists and their public for a dozen 
years. With legs apart and hands clasped behind his 
back, he let the point of his chin fall half-way to his 
chest and stared from under knitted brows. 

“And you imagine I should take it up if I didn’t think I 
could solve it ? The tories are the least intelligent of all 
parties and they’re also the least proud ! They don’t 
mind where they look for a leader : Disraeli, Chamberlain, 
George, Churchill. They fancy, in a queer, muddled way! 



7i 


THE CREED OF A REALIST 


that a man who’s big enough to lead them is meek enough 
to serve them. They’ve forgotten that a time came when 
they had to open their most sacred doors to their servants. 
Dizzy, Chamberlain . . .Will Standish be able to get on 
without me in six months’ time ? ” 

Auriol looked up swiftly : 

“ I hope not.” 

“ Then am I acquitted of madness ? ” 

“ If you really think you’ll succeed.” 

“ I do. Don’t you, Auriol ? ” 

“ I don’t know. I was so furious to think they’d 
trapped you.” 

Without moving from the window, he turned slowly 
to look at her: 

” If I tell you I shall succeed ? ” 

“ I shall believe you ! I have absolute faith in you. 

“ You're the one person who has ! And I don t suppose 
you’ll ever know what that means to me. I don’t know 
what I should have done in the last few months if I hadn t 
had your faith to back me. I was . . . disappointed, 
Auriol, when Standish passed me over. I don t know 
what I shah do in the next six months. Without you. 


Will you miss me?” 

“ You know I shall! ” 

“ Dear child, I don't know ! That’s the reason I ra 
here now. It’s the reason I’ve said things to-day that I 
shouldn’t have said otherwise. It’s the reason I m going 
away. It’ll be the reason I come back, if I ever do 

He took a step forward, but stopped before reaching her. 
Auriol had scattered an inch of cigarette-as 1 o\er er 
skirt and was flicking it away with her scented square 


of coloured handkerchief. . r 

“ if you . ? ” she repeated indifferently. 

“ If I ever do. My dear, this can’t go on ! Don’t you 


know I’m in love with you ? 



CHAPTER III 


The Speech of a Romantic 


" History shows you men whose master-touch 
Not so much modifies as makes anew : 

Minds that transmute nor need restore at all. 

A breath of God made manifest in flesh 
Subjects the world to change from time to time, 

Alters the whole conditions of our race 
Abruptly, not by unpcrceived degrees 
Nor play of elements already there, 

But quite new leaven, leavening the lump. 

And liker. so. the natural process.” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohaisticl-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 


I 

“ T didn't know ” 

To Sheridan, grimly prepared for surrender or 
repulse, for dismay, protests or collapse, it seemed that 
Auriol received the announcement with staggering self- 
possession. She was not pleased, she was not annoyed, 
she was not shocked, she was not frightened. If her 
expression became a little strained, she was only reflecting 
unconsciously the emotion in his own face. She did not 
shrink away nor change colour ; and her lips were steady, 
though her eyes opened wider than their wont. Not until 
she had dusted away the cigarette-ash and got rid of her 
absurd handkerchief would she even attend to him. 

“ 1 thought you must have seen . . Sheridan mut¬ 
tered. 


' Mumrai, had an idea .... I believe that’s why I'm 
being sent abnad.” At last she began to flush, but on her 
own account more than his. “ Some idiot People 
seem to thitf- it's impossible for a man and woman to 




THE SPEECH OF A ROMANTIC 73 

meet. ... The family have been dropping hints for a 
long time, but no one has the courage to speak out. I 
didn't know, honestly. I knew you liked coming here. 
You said I had a way of putting things . . . 

“ I said you inspired me,” he broke in. 

“ That was very charming, of course . 

“ You don’t believe it ? When I’m with you, I can see 
visions, Auriol! I can think. When I go away, I can 
work. Your faith gives me faith in myself. Without 

you ...” „ , . . 

“ Don’t say you can’t work without me, she inter¬ 
rupted. “ It would be absurd. A year ago we’d never 
met. You’re going away now for six months ... 

“ But I shall feel I have you with me ! In spirit. You 
don’t understand ? Auriol, imagine we were married. 
Imagine you died. I should be broken-hearted. s ou 
never be able to work again. You can imagine that. 
Well, can’t you imagine that I work better, that I can 
only work when you’re beside me, in body or spirit . 
That's what I mean by inspiration. You’re essential 

to me.” 

II 


Very slowly, perhaps because she shared her f^ m ^y s 
dislike of pregnant words, perhaps because she had ior the 
first time to measure the implication of this one, Aurio 


repeated: 

“ Essential ? ” 

“ Don’t you understand ? ” . , . 

Again he took a step towards her and again halted m 

perplexity. If she was not luring him on, she ought to 
have been frightened as he drew near, hungry or er. 
He could have picked her up in one hand, crushing her ti 
her cold young blood took fire from his own. o woman 
with passion already kindled had stirred him as he was 
stirred by this girl whose passion was not yet bom. Had 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


74 

she set herself to madden him, like some of the women 
who had pitted their indifference against his ardour, she 
could not have found a surer way than by artlessly sitting 
curled at his feet and tantalizing him with her supple, 
slender youth. He wanted to bury his face in the frag¬ 
rance of her hair and to feel her white arms tightening 
about his neck as her lips fluttered against his. 

“ We must think what we’re going to do about it,” 
she told him with a frown. “ It wasn’t worth issuing 
ultimatums a week before I went away, but I don’t 
suppose we shall be allowed to meet much when you 
come back.” The frown gave place to a puzzled smile. 
" Especially after this,” she added. 

‘‘After this, we can never meet on the old terms.” 
He waited to hear her say that, after this, they could at 
last meet as they wanted, but the passion in his voice 
called forth no echo in hers. His heart quickened in 
apprehension as he realized for the first time that perhaps 
he was going to fail; and with a hot rush of shame he 
recalled that he had preened himself only that morning, 
like a chorus-girl before a looking-glass, demanding how 
any one could resist him. “Auriol, d’you care for me 
at all ? ” 

Of course I do ! I care for you, I believe in you 
Didn’t you sav that my faith . . . ? ” 

“ That’s for my work, not me.” 

“ 1>ve never thought about you apart from it. You were 
married ; till to-day I didn’t know there was anything 
wrong . . .” 

“ If I were unmarried . . . ? ” he began, then hesi¬ 
tated as he saw that she was not yet ready for the ques¬ 
tion. “ I was talking about divorce to-day, because it’s 
time we faced facts. I had that in mind when I accepted 
the mission. V e couldn t afford to act in a hurry I said 
but six months’ calm reflection ... We can't go on 
like this. If I find that things haven’t changed when I 



THE SPEECH OF A ROMANTIC 


75 


get back, I shall ask my wife to divorce me. You say 
you’ve never thought of me apart from my work. 
Well, I want you to think, Auriol, during the next six 

months . . 

“ Oh, but this isn’t fair! ” 

Sheridan smiled at this first ripple on the surface of her 

indifference. 

“ Why not ? ” 

“ Your wife ! It’s not fair on her ! It’s not fair to 
ask me . . .” 

“ To break things up ? I’m not. If I had no wife, 
would you even consider marrying me ? I've made a 
certain position for myself, but I’m not of your clay. 
He could see her preparing an angry protest and continued 
obstinately in the same vein. “ Your people would oppose 
it, tooth and nail. I’m nearly twice your age. I’ve lost 
my bloom. A life like mine blunts the finer feelings. 
Every one would tell you I shouldn’t be an easy man to 
marry. In spite of that, you believe in me ; we’re friends. 
If I said I was in love with you—I have !—if 1 said 1 

couldn’t get on without you ...” 

“ But that’s absurd ! ” she interrupted impatiently. 

“ People are mad about love. If I’d never been born . . . 

" I shouldn’t have fallen in love with you.” 

“ If I tumbled down under a motor-bus ... 

Sheridan raised her to her feet and drew her to the 
arm of his chair. His touch failed to rouse her ; and 
she seemed indifferent whether he held her hand or let 

it §0* 'r ? Tt 

“ Shall I tell you what would happen ? lo me . i 

will happen if things are the same in six months time 

I shall be done for. I shall give up the struggle, i a 

why I said ‘ if’ I came back. I need you, Auriol. 

“ You think I’m mad, too, when it comes to love ? 
We aU are. Yow’ll find that. You've never let yourselt 



7 6 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

think of me in relation to love. I was married. You’d 
think it wrong ; wrong for me even to kiss you, though 
mv marriage has been so long over. Wouldn’t you ? 

As she hesitated, he slipped his arm round her shoulders 
and kissed her. She was less surprised than he had ex¬ 
pected, till he remembered that girls kissed more freely 
than in the time of their mothers. Auriol had been kissed 
before ; all her friends, probably, kissed her; none of 
them, quite certainly, had been less unsuccessful than he 
in making her feel that a kiss could matter. She was 
acquiescent and uninterested, a little frightened perhaps 
at being kissed by a married man but still more frightened 
of seeming prudish or old-fashioned. He withdrew his 
arm and tried to guess why she was frowning. 

“ How long . . . ? " she began. 

“ Since I first set eyes on you.” 

Her hand rested for a moment on his shoulder as she 
changed her position. The touch was protective, as 
though she were realizing her power over him and 
promising not to abuse it. 

“ I must have time to think ! ” she laughed uneasily. 
" Oh, I wish this hadn’t happened. I’m so sorry . . 

“ Darling child, it’s not your fault! It wasn’t your 
fault that you were born or that destiny threw us 
together ...” 

“I’m sorry for you. Why should you be bothered . . . ? 
I used to think I helped you a bit. If I’ve been upsetting 
you all the time, interfering with your work . . .” 

Clearly, she could only see him through his own work. 
She was dazzled by his career, but she could think of it 
without thinking of him as the hero of it. Her voice, 
too, was now protective and very slightly troubled, as 
though she realized her responsibility. So a sick wife 
might have apologized for wasting his time with her 
aches ana pains. It was strange to remember how many 
other womea had cared so much for him that they forgot 



THE SPEECH OF A ROMANTIC 77 

his position, while this girl would only melt to him if 
she could be shewn to have endangered his work. 

" We won’t talk about it any more now," he told her. 
" I dragged the subject in by the shoulders rather, because 
I felt I must come to an understanding before I went 
away I’ve not found it easy to meet you, Auriol; and 
I’ve not found it easy to meet your parents. Or any one 
else who knew anything or suspected anything. After 
this, though ... I’m not pressing you for a decision, 
but I can put my own mind at ease by dropping a hint 
to certain other people. My wife. Your father. I shall 
say that I’m going away for six months’ calm reflection. 
At the end of six months I may be dead ... or cured ; 
you may be married to some one else. If not ... If 
not, Auriol, I shall make my wife divorce me. And 
when I’m free to ask you ..." 

“ But I can't! " 

“ Can’t what ? I’m not asking you to do anything : 
I’m telling you what I shall say to your father ... 

"And if I tell you in six months’ time that I can’t 

marry you ? ” 

III 

She was not, he found, to be stampeded. And, until 
she herself knew the sensation of losing her head, she 
would not believe that other people could lose theirs. 
So long as he affected to be helpless, he could indeed 
work on her queer feeling of responsibility for making 
him helpless ; the moment he proclaimed that he would 
do this or that, she seemed to feel that he had recovered 
his manhood and could look after himself. Helplessness 
was an attitude which Sheridan was not accustomed to 
assuming with women, but he had never before been 
required to think out an attitude for a girl who protested, 
in her chill ignorance, that people became absurd as soon 
as they began to talk about love. 



78 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

"Well, no one in the world can compel you," he 
laughed. 

" But what will you do ? " she persisted. 

" Isn’t that rather . . . ? ” he began stiffly. " How 
shall I put it ? You’re free to do what you like with your 
own life ; I, in my turn . . 

‘ You’d throw up everything ? " 

Auriol’s voice and eyes were no longer protective. 
She was using all her strength now to keep one already 
stronger than herself from mastering her with a foul blow. 

" I should find it necessary to put my house in order 
after my long absence,’ he answered with laboured 
irony. " My interests are pretty wide. I shouldn’t be 
justified in neglecting them. Good heavens, I’ve a house 
in Ottawa—one of the finest in the city, I believe—which 
I’ve never seen. I should want to see that. I might fall 
so much in love with it. . . . We were talking about 
Ottawa,’’ he explained in a changed voice, as the door 
opened and Colin came in. 

His hat was in his hand ; and he was murmuring 

Er, has the guv’nor . . . ? ” before he was well inside 
the room. Sheridan recalled that his own hat was still 
lying on the hall-table and pictured Colin's change of 
expression as he told himself that " this fellow ” was still 
here, that it was high time somebody sent him about 
his business, finally that he would do it himself if no one 
else would. For a moment Sheridan was enraged that this 
silent, scornful boy with the unsuccessful moustache 
and the mass-production tie and manner of the Brigade 
should come and come again to spy on him ; then he 
remembered that, if Colin had burst in five minutes 
earlier, he would have found his cherished sister swing¬ 
ing her legs from the arm of the intruder’s chair. Ten 
mmutes earlier, the intruder’s lips had been pressed against 
Aunols; it was an unsatisfactory kiss, but it would 
have exasperated Colin beyond bearing. And perhaps one 



THE SPEECH OF A ROMANTIC 79 

should really be grateful for an interruption that promised 
to leave those last words graven indelibly on Auriol’s 

mind. 

“ Daddie are you looking for ? " she asked. “ He went 

off with mummie half an hour ago.” 

“ Damn ! ” Colin muttered, as though he had missed 
a meeting that might change the course of his life. 

“ Imogen’s looking for you.” 

“ Did you tell her I was here ? Well, you might.” 

As the door closed, Sheridan stood up to say good-bye 
before anything could be said to weaken his ultimatum, 
but the bell of the telephone rang and Auriol hurried to it 
without seeing his outstretched hand. She was still 
thanking some one for his good wishes when Mrs. \\ ain- 
wright came in ; and thereafter for an hour, whenever 
he tried to take his leave, Auriol begged him to stay a 
moment longer and, whenever he resumed his seat, a 
new caller was announced or a new voice hailed her by 

telephone. 4 , 

Sitting unobtrusively in a comer, Sheridan studied 

Auriol in a setting that was unfamiliar to him. By 
thinking of her as ten years older than her age, he had 
forgotten that she was only two-and-twenty ; by ranging 
her beside him, he had forgotten that he was taking her 
out of her element. Now her element engulfed her. 
Sheepish young men and voluble young women, fault¬ 
lessly turned out and all of one pattern, poured in with 
presents of flowers and books. One in three, when Auriol 
remembered to introduce them, turned out to be a cousin ; 
male and female, she addressed them as darling an 
kissed them. When he had married her, Sheridan pre¬ 
sumed that he would have to know all these people, 
unless Auriol dropped them in favour of his own friends ; 
he was dismayed to find how few he had ever met. 
Orpington's boy, Lord Selhurst, and his three sisters, 
Guy Cavaly, Geoffrey Mailock and half-a-dozen more 



80 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

were known to him ; the rest belonged to another world. 

It was a world, apparently, where people existed for 
amusement; and Sheridan was first contemptuous, 
then exasperated as these boys laid their plans for wasting 
Auriol’s time at theatres and dances. Exasperation 
yielded to alarm as he measured the chasm between their 
world and his own. Never had he felt so much “ out of 
things ” ; if this group was a section of what people called 
“ society”, he had never before realized that, though he 
might be a hundred miles above it, he was not—and never 
would be—of it. Were the Otways relying on Auriol’s 
inherited sense of values when she came to compare him 
with the people of her own breed ? Had it ever occurred 
to them that she might be making a scale of values for 
herself ? 

As the giggling and chatter seemed to be wound for 
perpetual motion, Sheridan hoisted himself to his feet 
and murmured that he must really be going. 

“ But I want to talk to you ! ” Auriol cried. Then she 
turned to the others. ‘‘You must run away now, children. 
Mr. Sheridan and I have business to discuss. Where 
had we got to ? Oh, you were telling me about your house 
in Ottawa. I don’t see the connection . . .” 

Sheridan smiled as the room gradually emptied. 
These boys and girls were the friends of Auriol’s childhood, 
but her willingness to get rid of them hinted that they 
did not rank high in the scale of values which she was 
making for herself. Achievement on a certain plane 
counted for more than pedigree. 

“ I was saying I should go to Ottawa on the day when I 
felt I could no longer do useful work here,” he answered. 

“ Is that a threat ? ” 

Colin was standing by the open door ; and she spoke 
in a whisper, bright-eyed for battle. When he shut it, 
he shut himself in ; and Sheridan was constrained to 
laugh for fear of losing his temper 



8i 


THE SPEECH OF A ROMANTIC 


“ You were asking what my plans were,” he reminded 
her. “ I’ve had this in mind for some years as a possi¬ 
bility. You weren’t in Paris during the peace conference ? 
Ah! I felt that the world of which Paris pretended to 

be the centre had passed away.” 

“ Ottawa seems a counsel of despair, Colin murmured, 
throwing himself into a chair with patent determination 

to outstay his sister’s visitor. 

" The task before any one who felt a responsibility 

for the good order of the world . . . Sheridan con¬ 
tinued, disregarding him. 

“ ' Take up the White Mans Burden Colin quoted, 

refusing to be disregarded. 

Quick to appraise the probable persistence of an inter¬ 
rupter, Sheridan decided that Colin was not to be shaken 
off easilv. He realized, too, that his own last two sentences 
had been keyed for the public speech or the leading 
article rather than for an undress conversation with a 
girl from Cambridge and a young man from the Staff 


College. , 

“ If you like to put it like that,” he acquiesced good- 

humouredly. , 

“Isn’t Kipling—the Kipling of those years— rather 

vieux jeu ? ” , , 

" To the superficial, no doubt.” With the merits of 

the question Sheridan could not concern himself; it 
was the tone, which Lady Otway and all her circle 
employed to drown reality in frivolous insincerity, that 
he had to attack. The leader-writer lifted a head that was 
still unbloody and had been only temporarily owe 
“ They were the years in which my faith was taking shape. 
I should say that Kipling’s work and vision in those days 
will never be vieux jeu. The empire had grown haphazard, 
so I don’t blame any one for not recognizing its e * is * er \ ce ’ 
but they wouldn’t recognize its existence yet if he hadn 

pointed it out to them.” F 



82 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“ Which he did twenty to thirty years ago,” Colin 
persisted. ” Galileo, at a date of which I am unfortunately 
ignorant, pointed out that the earth revolved round the 
sun or the sun round the earth (I can never remember 
which). Galileo is rather vieux jeu nowadays, though. 
We’ve assimilated him.” 

The manner, now defining itself as one of vague scepti¬ 
cism and of mental superiority that was far from vague, 
resembled his mother’s nearly enough to be irritating 
in any one of less than his mother’s age. 

" You’ll have to assimilate him again if his discovery 
is challenged,” Sheridan retorted. “ You may have to 
assimilate Kipling again for the same reason. The empire 
which he preached came to an end with the war. Every 
part had done so well that it claimed equality with 
every other ; equality and independence. At the peace- 
conference the dominions were independent powers. (That 
was how the Ottawa house came to be bought.) Since 
then, they’ve refused to be bound by Downing Street: 
they ratify a treaty or not as they please ; and, when 
Lloyd-George contemplated war at Chanak, he cabled 
to know if the dominions would stand in with him. The 
Holy Roman Empire was called a chaos upheld by provi¬ 
dence ; the present British Empire is a chaos upheld by 
telegraph-wires. And nobody is trying to repair the 
damage of the peace-treaty ; hardly any one sees what 
it did. I hope when I take out this mission of mine 
But I don’t want to bore your brother ! ” 

IV 

Though he smiled good-humouredly, Sheridan contrived 
to make his tone faintly patronizing, as though Auriol 
and he were grown-ups indulgently suiting their conver¬ 
sation to the intelligence of a child. 

Colin flushed and made haste to veil his hostility 



THE SPEECH OF A ROMANTIC 83 

“ I thought you were going to investigate unem¬ 
ployment,” he began. 

“ I’ve yet to discover what I have to investigate. Every 
one knows that unemployment exists; and I at least 
know that it can be cured. What would you think if 
Huddersfield were filled with unemployed of every kind 
while Bradford clamoured for workmen of every kind ? ” 
he demanded impatiently. "At this moment England is 
filled with unemployed and Australia is empty of men. 
Dangerously empty. And that’s my opportunity ! I 
want something more than a tariff: I want a common 
trade-policy that will lead to a common foreign-policy 
and a common defence-policy. Inevitably we must come 
to an imperial council. You can’t have prime ministers 
neglecting their duties at home and journeying half-way 
round the world to make agreements with one govern¬ 
ment and then to have them rejected by the next. . . . 
I believe your historian will say that, if the Versailles 
conference ended the old empire, the Chanak incident 
gave birth to the new one. Few, very few people have 
realized it yet. Not the dominions, certainly. They’re 
still very jealous. Yet, if they’d only be patient, time is 
fighting on their side. Let them consent to the imperial 
council, sitting permanently wherever the capital of the 

empire may be fixed . . 

“ Wherever . . . ? ” Colin interrupted. 

His voice had softened to a new interest, almost a new 
deference ; and Sheridan smiled to himself. By patience 
and persuasiveness he had won a hearing at luncheon. 
Then he had talked to Lady Otway and at Auriol; and 
he talked at Auriol again now, though he addressed 

himself to Colin. 

The House of Lords, he explained, was the natural 
home, at present; but the focus would shift from London. 
After all, England had only belonged for two thousand 
years to the continent of Europe because Europe was the 



84 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

centre of the civilized world from the birth of the Roman 
empire. There were two civilized worlds now, each with 
its own centre, the Atlantic dividing them. So long as it 
divided, there could still be two worlds ; but the Atlantic, 
when a man steamed across it in five days and flew in 
less, would unite. There would only be one centre then. 
And it would not be Stockholm nor Berlin nor Vienna ; 
nor Paris, except for fashions in frocks ; nor Rome, 
except for a fashion in faith. It might be London for a time, 
so long as Great Britain controlled the shipping and bank¬ 
ing of the world ; but North America had the food, the 
population, the space, the raw material. Very soon 
the money would follow ; and government would follow 
the money. London would become a second Rome ; and 
the new Constantinople . . . 

“ Ottawa ? " asked Auriol. 

“ I bought my house on the chance of it,” Sheridan 
laughed, ” though I shan’t live to see the transfer. Ottawa 
or Washington.” 

" Tokio ? ” asked Colin. 

Sheridan shook his head. If the future of the world lay 
with the yellow races, Europe and America must bow 
their heads ; but, before that day, they would resist 
in a way that would leave few heads to bow. Japan by 
herself could not dominate the world ; and, before Japan 
had time to arm, drill, organize China, the white peoples 
would have started a preventive war. Speaking slowly, 
as though he had forgotten his audience, Sheridan ruled 
out the Far East and South America. No one had vet 
scratched the surface of Brazil, but he put his faith in the 
temperate zone and he specifically withheld it from a 
race of mulattos It was a gamble, he declared, between 
the States and Canada : the States had a colossal start 
but Canada had a long, a very long experience. The an¬ 
cestors or modern Canada settled England and devised 
parliamentary government, they rejected the papacy and 



THE SPEECH OF A ROMANTIC 85 

cut off a king's head; the succession which the States 
broke in their war of independence was unbroken in 
Canada. And all the political wisdom of England lay 
at Canada’s service. What could the States know of 
anything outside the States ? They had not been fighting 
their neighbours for a thousand years ; they had not been 
sharpening their diplomatic wits with emperors and 
popes; they had not been administering a quarter of 
the earth's surface, with every colour and faith and 
custom known to man. They were what they called 
themselves: a great new country. Canada was a great 
new country, too ; but she was backed by an old tradition 

and could draw on an old experience. 

As though he were recollecting his audience for the 
first time, Sheridan paused and allowed a smile to relieve 
the mesmeric earnestness of his expression . 

“ You’ll think me very arrogant; but, when I bought 
that house, I had an idea of educating Canada up to her 
imperial mission. I wanted to prepare Ottawa for the 
day when Ottawa would be the capital of the empire. 
Then . . . then I saw that I was before my time ; the 
empire was still to make, we must create the idea of a 
federal capital before we could transfer the capital from 

the old world to the new." 

“ But you kept the house ? " asked Colin, impressed 

in spite of himself. 

“ One never knows when it may be needed. As I see 
no virtue in false modesty, I have talked to you with 
complete candour. I may, as I was telling your sister, 
find that my usefulness in this country is exhausted. 
Already I feel I’ve done as much here as any man outside 
the cabinet can hope to do. I could do more in Australia, 

Canada, South Africa ..." . 

“ But . . .” Colin wriggled impatiently at this showy 

juggling with continents. False modesty might have no 

virtue; but this fellow, the wriggle seemed to suggest, 



86 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

was talking like a megalomaniac. “ You can’t just 
walk in . . 

Sheridan looked round the room and smiled again. 
The only pictures on the walls were indifferent water¬ 
colours of Lokshott, the Cornish seat of the Otways, 
their former source of consequence, their present and 
future cause of penury. How deeply rooted they were to 
a single corner of a single island ! How the parochialism 
of the English landed proprietor choked the develop¬ 
ment of an imperial sense ! And how, if they only saw 
it, the Otways and their like, living in a prison and 
mistaking it for a demesne, played into the hands 
of the mobile, landless Sheridans of politics and 
commerce ! 

“ Political conditions are fundamentally the same in all 
countries,” he answered. “ When a diplomat goes to a 
new post, he must learn from the beginning the personal 
atmosphere, the society, perhaps even the language of 
the place. So with the politician : he acquires a new 
jargon. He is like the engineer, the doctor ; if he knows 
his job, he can practise anywhere ; and all he need learn 
is a handful of new technical terms. As I learned them 
when I took up politics in England. I’m English-born, 
but it was a toss-up where I settled. I was at sea when 
most men are learning their political ABC; and, at an 
age when other men were in parliament, I was learning 
the ABC of politics and of many other things. The 
late start handicapped me in some ways, but it gave me 
time to make money and to become a cosmopolitan. 
I tell you with complete conviction that I can practise 
in politics wherever you put me, in just such time as I 
need to learn the language. When I decided on England, 
one of my critics—a Canadian—said that, wherever I 
went, I should found a paper within a month, form a party 
within a year and make a government within five. My 
party is still a party of one . . 



THE SPEECH OF A ROMANTIC 87 

“ You’ve founded more than one paper,” said Colin, 
with a grimace which he was at little pains to hide. 

“ I’m afraid that’s not a merit in your eyes. And yet— 
correct me if I’m wrong—I always feel that those who 
vilify the popular press are moved to some exteht by 
disappointment and jealousy. When your grandfather 
taught the masses to read, Otway, he lacked the foresight 
to lay down what they should read , and the in uence 
which he had once enjoyed passed to men llke Newn ^ s ’ 
Pearson, Harmsworth. If the Post and the Tele Z™P h 
had come out at a halfpenny, I doubt if the Mail and t e 
Express would ever have cut in. You re disappointed 
that vou missed your chance ; you’re jealous that your 
wisest words are drowned by the thundering headlines 
of the Daily Mail. Perhaps you exaggerate a little the 
power of, say, the Sheridan press, when it’s in competition 
with the Rothermere press, the Beaverbrook press, 
neither of which have any great cause to love me... 
I’m afraid you must look on the popular press as something 

that’s come to stay, though ... 

“ That’s no reason why I should like it. 


“ No ” 

Sheridan pulled out his watch and sprang up with an 

TsaasR.*»• » <*■#■ “ 

already learned by his experience of an a^ternoon, 
if the Otways were to be overcome, it must be y a s 
attack. At luncheon he had knocked Lady wa ^ 
her feet and then allowed her to pick herself up. A t 
shaking Colin’s sublime self-satisfaction, he was so 
letting him settle down more deeply t an ever 
narrow conviction of his own infallibility. If Auriol was 
to be moved, she must be moved by the roots, no m Y 
bent by a blustering wind. Perhaps she realize ’ 
perhaps it was why she wanted him to stay, in 
of talking away his ultimatum. 



88 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

You’ll wait for some tea ? ” she was saying. 

“ I mustn’t.” Sheridan shook hands and turned to 
Colin. “No, it’s no reason you should like it. And the 
fact that I’ve stayed here for three hours is no reason 
why you should like me. But then I don’t think you 
waste much time trying to find reasons for liking me ! ” 

V 


Standing with hand outstretched and watching the 
young face before him as it flushed darkly, Sheridan 
congratulated himself on seizing an opportunity that had 
almost eluded him. Colin Otway was a young man who 
had to be fought with the gloves off, but it was not easy 
to catch him unprotected by his parents and their stifling 
atmosphere of well-bred insincerity. If, belying the flush, 
he continued to keep his temper, Master Colin might 
score yet; already he was saying : 

“ Really, Mr. Sheridan . . 


Auriol coughed warningly and moved towards the bell. 

All right, all right ! ” Sheridan laughed. “ I’m 
accustomed to seeing things without the coloured spec¬ 
tacles of sentiment or self-deception. Sometimes I may 
be too impulsive in revealing what I see. I’m not sorry 
that this question should have arisen. You do dislike 
me, for a reason which I understand entirely. You have 
shewn it ever since you entered the house to-day ; and 
for some weeks before that. In your place I should dislike 
any one who occupied my place. You would be a happier 
man if you read in a week’s time that my ship had gone 
down with all hands. Be honest, man ! I should, in your 
place ; and I should admit it. Well, if I don’t drown, 
we shall meet again in six months’ time. It is possible 
that, six months after that, you may read of mv divorce. 
It is possible that you may then read of my re-marriage. 

T V n a: + \ } d ° any / ood b y becoming hostile at this stage. 
I shah teU your father what I’ve told Auriol and you. 



THE SPEECH OF A ROMANTIC 89 

It’s only fair to warn you ; and I’m not tying any one’s 
hands in any way. It’s possible, of course, that in six 
months’ time everything may be over . . . I’ll say 
good-bye.” 

With a smile to Auriol and a nod to Colin, Sheridan 
walked out of the room and let himself out of the house 
unattended. Though he had not waited to listen, he could 
not help hearing a furious “ My God, Auriol! ” followed 
by an inarticulate roar. It was answered by an exasper- 
atingly cool: 

“ I really don’t know.” 

“ Have you promised . . . ? ” 

" Darling Colin, don’t shout at me ! I’ve told you : 
I really don’t know.” 

Sheridan hailed a taxi and drove to Cleveland Row 
On his way, he rehearsed a speech that began : 

“ While I’m abroad, Laura, there’s something I want 
you to think over. It can’t be a new problem, because you 
must have seen that our marriage really came to an end 
ten years ago ...” 



CHAPTER IV 


After the Millennium 


" No, my brave thinkers, whom I recognize. 

Gladly, myself the first, as, in a sense. 

All that our world’s worth, flower and fruit of man ! 

Such minds myself award supremacy 
Over the common insignificance, 

When only Mind’s in question,—Body bows 
To quite another government, you know. 

Be Kant crowned king o’ the castle in the air ! 

Hans Slouch,—his own, and children’s mouths to feed 
I’ the hovel on the ground,—wants meat, nor chews 
' The Critique of Pure Reason ’ in exchange.” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 

I 

O N reaching Cleveland Row, Sheridan was met by 
Max Hendry with a message from the Colonial Office. 
The Koh-i-nor had been chartered for the trade com¬ 
mission and would sail from Tilbury on the following 
Saturday, if Mr. Sheridan could be ready by then. 

“ Less than a week," Hendry pointed out in appre¬ 
hension. 

It’s less than a week since I gave Standish my answer,” 
Sheridan replied. 

To Hendry the words seemed rather an unnecessary 
piece of boastfulness, but Sheridan himself was amazed 
at the change that had overtaken him in five days. A 
week before he had filled a big position, with little reason 
to hope that he could magnify it and no reason at all to 
fear that he could jeopardize it. Now, by accepting 
Mr. Standish’s challenge or walking into Lord Orpington’s 
trap, he stood—as he had confessed at luncheon—to 

90 



AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 91 

lose every ounce of present influence: if the mission 
failed, he would become the William Jennings Bryan of 
England, a golden-tongued orator with a vast following 
that never succeeded in thrusting him higher than the 
second place. If the mission succeeded, he might live 
to be the Roosevelt of England. Five days only had 
passed since he made his decision ; he was not yet used 
to the rope-bridge that led, if only he could walk it, to 
his kingdom. 

And less than five hours had passed since he discovered 
that Auriol Otway was necessary to him, less than one 
since he had flung down his own challenge to her family. 
Before the Koh-i-nor sailed, there was so much for him 
to arrange and decide that he could not determine 
where to begin. Livingstone must be consulted, Laura 
must be informed ; and something must be said to Lord 
Otway. In addition, he must find out who had suggested 
this mission, who had proposed that he should take 
charge of it and what Standish, first, then Orpington and 
finally the Ferrers triumvirate expected to be the result. 

“ Tell the Colonial Office I shall be ready,” he instructed 
Hendry ; “ then warn the others.” 

“ Yes, sir. Do you want me to come, sir ? 

“ I can’t spare you from the work here. While I’m 
away, I shall be entrusting very responsible duties to you. 
A position I've had in mind for some time. We’ll discuss 

it later.” . . 

He passed on before the boy could waste his time wit 
thanks. And, in truth, for him that gave and for him 
that received, thanks were a sorry waste of time at such 
a moment, as Hendry would discover if he had the wit 
to trace the bearing of his new, “ responsible duties 
on his own fortunes. He would find that he had signe 
his own death-warrant as a man, condemning himse 
to life-servitude as a private secretary, in the hour 
when he clave to his flesh-pots. 



92 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“A nice boy, but you can’t make anything out of that 
stuff,” Sheridan mused, with an inflamed memory of the 
simpering asses who had broken in on his conversation 
with Auriol that afternoon. In time, if indeed she now felt 
any tenderness, she would see that Hendry was impossible. 
“ If he was in earnest about her or anything, he wouldn’t 
stay on in this lap-dog position.” 

On reaching his workroom, he sent for his solicitor and 
touched up the speech that had taken shape as he returned 
from Manchester Square. When Livingstone arrived, 
he summoned his wife and her brother to hear his deci¬ 
sion ; and, to convince them all that the occasion was 
prosaic and their discussion a matter of unemotional 
business, he made known his intentions in the intervals 
of signing letters and interrupted himself—as in any 
other matter of business—when one of his secretaries 
came in to announce a new caller : 

Sorry to bring you all the way from the City, Living¬ 
stone. . . . Kenneth Doyle ? I’ll see him next, Hendry, 
if he can wait a few minutes . . . The next six months 
"iH §l ye us a H an opportunity for thinking calmly over 
something that I ve had in my mind for the best part of 
ten years . . . Mallock ? Oh, I want to see him par¬ 
ticularly ! Take him into your room, Hendry, and shew 
him the ropes a bit.” 

Hendry delivered his messages and withdrew to the 
bare, ill-lighted box adjoining the workroom. It had 
been built out, he demonstrated to Mallock, as though 
the biggest of ordinary houses must be too small for the 
activities of a Sheridan ; it was approached by a private 
staircase, as though the secretaries of a Sheridan, like the 
jurymen at a murder trial, must be screened from the 
v\ orld , it was rendered sound-proof by double-doors, 
as though the lightest word of a Sheridan was more secret 
than the whisper of an oracle ; and it was furnished with 
a safe, a switch-board, several telephones and four un- 



AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 


93 

painted tables and chairs, rather as though a Sheridan’s 
staff had to be reminded that the great workers of the 
world despised the fripperies of many-coloured inks and 
waxes. 

“ He says he won’t be long,” Max reported dubiously, 
“ but I imagine there’s a fair amount of family business 
on hand. Mrs. Sheridan. And Tony. And Living¬ 
stone.” 

Mallock surveyed his surroundings with disapproval. 

“ * The house with the moving wallshe grunted. 

” Moving walls ? ” Max echoed. 

“ If you had ever seen or read a play called Hassan . . . 
But you haven’t! You are totally illiterate, Max. You 
sit here . . . Yes, as I thought! Studying the accept¬ 
ances for the Cambridgeshire, matching yourself against 
the official handicapper ...” 

" The hours are long, but there’s dam' little to do,” 
said Max. 

“ It’s a living death ! That’s why I called this room 
‘ the house with the moving walls ’. Tell me about this 
man Sheridan.” 

“ He’s a rum card. I don’t know that I can tell you 
more than that.” 

Mallock sighed and transferred his disapproval to his 
companion. Though he had no concern for his friend s 
prospects and would have despised him if he had essayed 
to become a more useful member of society, he was always 
infuriated by Max’s air of resignation, if not of content¬ 
ment. Robbed of an Oxford fellowship by the outbreak 
of hostilities in 1914, Mallock nursed a grievance against 
whatever work he was compelled to do and whatever 
men he was given for colleagues. Shaken in health by 
the war and bitterly convinced that his generation had 
been sacrificed in a colossal futility, he was avowedly 
interested only in extorting from society an assured 
position in return for the five years of his life which society 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


94 

had wasted. In an age of universal plunder and scramble 
he maintained that men of education should be able to 
plunder more and to scramble higher than the unlettered 
herd ; and, though he discouraged competition, he was 
annoyed when a fellow-sufferer failed to share his sour 
hostility. 

“ You haven’t turned your opportunities to much 
account,” he jeered. “ If I’d been in your place, I swear 
I’d have been editing one of Sheridan’s papers by now. 
From your knowledge of his private affairs, you ought to 
be able to screw him quite a bit.” 

‘‘Not my line of country,” Max answered. " I believe 
in obeyin’ orders, usin’ what intelligence God has given 
me . . .” 

‘‘And waiting for something to turn up ! Well, if you're 
happy . . . This mission is going to be very useful to me, 
Max. Sheridan ain’t the only realist in this house. We 
ought to make a strong combination.” 

Looking up, Max could not restrain a smile. The 
combination would be one between a lion and a jackal. 
When Geoffrey Mallock, meagre and bilious, with eye¬ 
glasses aslant and the sneer of the professional cynic, 
stood confronted with Sheridan’s massive strength, he 
might see for himself the incongruity in their alliance. 

“ You’d better tell him that,” Max suggested. “ It 
may not have occurred to him.” 

“ 1 shall,” rejoined Mallock, “ as soon as I’m out of this 
place. "‘And how ,’ ” he quoted, “ ‘ shall we employ the time 

for our deliverance ? ’ 

I, said Jafar, shall meditate upon the mutability 

of human affairs.’ You may 
cast me for Jafar, Max. I shall meditate on the rise of 
Sheridan and the fall of Peter Orpington. ‘And /,’ said 
Masrar, ‘ shall sharpen my sword upon my thigh.’ Sheridan 
will play the part of Masrar, the executioner. ‘And I,' 
said Hassan, ‘ shall study the reasons of the excessive ugli- 



AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 95 

ness of the pattern of this carpet.' You shall be the philo¬ 
sophic confectioner, Max.” 

II 

The carpet was undeniably repellent; the room was 
incontestably uncomfortable. Max had to admit, however, 
that the bleak workroom on the other side of the double¬ 
door was no more comfortable. The barrenness, indeed, 
seemed to be premeditated ; and, after studying Sheridan 
at close quarters, he had discovered an unexpected vein 
of childishness which, with a disabling poverty of lan¬ 
guage, he tried to explain to his caustic and voluble 
friend! Sheridan, so far as Max could make him out, 
lived in the midst of an endless, old day-dream. If in 
boyhood he had pictured “ the great financier ”, “ the 
great newspaper proprietor”, “the statesman”, “the 
superman”, he must have given them the very frame 
that he erected later when he had blended all four char¬ 
acters in his own person. The sets and lighting of a film- 
studio accompanied him into private life, whether he 
was working at a trestle-table surrounded by telephones, 
or travelling with a portable typewriter and a vast cigar, 
or leaving a party to consult his tape-machine and allowing 
himself to be seen through an open door, with a tail of 

paper slowly winding round his ankles. 

These effects might be designed to impress the public, 
but Max felt that no one had ever derived greater enjoy¬ 
ment out of his importance than Sheridan. Every 
evening and every morning the secretaries were assembled 
and interrogated ; their work was examined and they 
were given their orders. If Sheridan had not already 
visited his offices in person, he would then convene his 
editors or instruct them minutely by telephone, iony 
Rushforth was usually in the house about this time, 
gossiping with his sister to shew that, as a member of 
the family, he took precedence of secretaries and waiting 



96 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

humbly, as a member of the staff, for a summons to the 
presence. If high policy or the law were under discussion, 
Andrew Livingstone would arrive hot-foot, taking 
precedence of every one; and the secretaries would 
wearily add another hour to the time that must pass 
before they could go home. 

With this boyish love for display was mingled a quality 
which Max did not try to explain. He was embarrassed, 
whenever Sheridan revealed it, and could never determine 
whether it was a streak of madness or an exhibition of 
bad form. Sheridan sometimes talked in a way that could 
only be matched by the wildest utterances of the Kaiser 
in the early days of the war, as though God and he were 
in partnership, as though—at lowest—to criticize him 
were blasphemy, as though he had been sent into the 
world to carry out God’s will and to render an account 
of himself to God alone. It was the way, Max believed, 
that men talked when their minds were clouded in the 
first stages of general paralysis. Sheridan’s mind, how¬ 
ever, was not clouded ; and this plea of responsibility 
to God and indifference to men was usually made when 
his actions had forfeited the forgiveness of men and 
could meet with the pardon of only a most tolerant God. 
In little more than a year Max had seen his chief pursuing 
business rivals and political opponents with a ruthlessness 
that was indecent. His justification, whenever he troubled 
to make one, was that his antagonist had obstructed 
something greater than the will of one man or the advan¬ 
tage of those whom he represented. This trait, Max de¬ 
cided, he w'ould leave Mallock to discover and explain 
for himself. 

“ You’ll find him rather a change after Peter Orpine- 
ton,” he predicted. 

Mallock permitted himself an acid smile : 

“A change in more ways than one. Blue Peter’s a 
gentleman, but you’ll never get very far with him.” 



AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 


97 


“ You’ll find it awkward if Sheridan continues to let 
fly at Blue Peter in his papers. That is, if you’re goin' 
back to the Colonial Office at the end of this mission.” 

“ I shall go back,” answered Mallock, “ but I doubt 
if Blue Peter will be there at the end of the mission. 
That’s why I’m transferring my allegiance.” 

Though his authorship was a well-guarded secret, 
Mallock rejoiced to recollect that, within an hour of being 
released by Lord Orpington to become general secretary 
to the mission, he had included him in his gallery of 
Contemporary Statesmen for the Weekly Review. The 
portrait, on which he had wasted no kindness, marked 
the end of a chapter ; it had been conceived in a mood 
of nervous exasperation when Mallock could hardly 
decide whether to despise more the fool who helped him 
forward or the fool who withstood him. 

“ You’re candid at any rate,” said Max. “At the 
same time there is such a thing as loyalty.” 

“ I’ve met the word, but never the quality it stands 
for. Blue Peter took me on because I was useful to him ; 

I worked for him because he was useful to me.” 

“And if Sheridan uses you to scalp Blue Peter . . . 

“ I shall be useful to Sheridan and he’ll be useful to me. 
I shall shew him just as much ‘ loyalty ’ as he shews me.” 

Mallock threw himself into a chair and pulled a sheaf 
of manuscript pages from his pocket. The Contemporary 
Portraits must be interrupted while he was abroad ; but 
he had found time, even before shaking hands on his new 
appointment, to satirize Sheridan. And the dreary inter¬ 
val of waiting was made almost tolerable by the thought 
that, when Sheridan welcomed him with conventional 
compliments, he would have in his pocket the draft of 
an article that would make Sheridan writhe in the agony 

of pride tormented and abased. 

Max looked at his watch with impatience alien to his 
usually placid mood. If Sheridan did not hurry up, he 



98 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

would have no time to see Kenneth Doyle, nor to give 
Mallock his riding-orders, nor—most important of all— 
to elucidate the mystery of the “ new, responsible 
duties ” that were to be delegated in his absence. When 
his chief said that he would be prepared to sail in five days' 
time, Max knew from long experience that leisure would 
be found for the smallest detail of work and that Sheridan 
would arrive on board, punctually unpunctual and 
majestically calm, ten minutes after every one else had 
paraded to receive him. Max would have liked, however, 
to hear his fate that evening. From the beginning of 
their association Sheridan had been fond of displaying 
his power by saying : “You saw the man who just 
went out ? The manager of my pulp-mills in Canada. 
He started as an office-boy ” ; or “ That fellow came to 
me, not for a job, but for a pair of my old boots ! He 
must have been about your age at the time. I saw there 
was something in him. Now, in a good year, he makes his 
fifteen thousand. ' For twelve months and more Max had 
been discouraged from thinking that a secretaryship 
and a salary of four hundred were the best that Sheridan 
could offer him ; but, whenever Auriol Otway or his 
father discussed his prospects, Max had to admit that 
nothing had yet materialized. The confession caused 
Sir Mark to grumble that these business-men were big 
talkers ; it prompted Auriol to wonder w'hether Max was 
really trying to improve his position. 

She need wonder no more, he decided. At her birthday- 
party that night he would be able to say that an appoint¬ 
ment of some kind had been promised him ; and he 
could add that he was not, after all, being taken abroad. 
It was fair to assume that his headquarters would still 
be in London ; it was reasonable to hope that the most 
responsible duties would allow of a week's racing at 
Newmarket now and again. If his new salary matched 
his new duties, he would—unlike his scowling companion 



AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 


99 

—feel no grievance against the fate which had sent him 
from Eton into the Army, mislaid him in North Russia 
and forgotten about him ever since. 

Max stretched himself and sighed with complete con¬ 
tentment. He was young, healthy and in hard condition. 
People seemed to like him or at least to tolerate him. 
He danced well, played excellent bridge and had a golf- 
handicap of four. Though he instinctively mistrusted 
the man who was too good-looking or too well-dressed, 
he had a soldier’s love for smartness and a human being’s 
satisfaction in a personal appearance that could not 
be unkindly criticized. Tall and limber, with copious black 
hair and an olive skin, he had pragmatically decided what 
he required of his body and had trained his body to meet 
his requirements. If Sheridan tempted him to eat and 
drink too well, Sheridan (who surrendered to identical 
temptations) sweated the uric acid from his secretary’s 
system at the same time as from his own ; if Max endan¬ 
gered his wind by excessive smoking, he preserved it by 
excessive dancing. His clear eyes and happy smile 
supplied a physical reason for his apathetic contentment 
in contrast to Mallock’s abiding mood of bilious universal 
antagonism. 

“ You seem to be damned pleased with yourself about 
something,” Mallock grumbled. 

“ I’m pleased with life,” Max answered. 

“ God help you ! Well, if you’re content to spend your 
days bottle-washing . . .” 

“ I’m not. In fact, I’m expecting a move up. Yesterday 
I was to come, to-day I’m to stay. Well, Sheridan s hinted 
for months that he's keepin’ somethin’ up his sleeve for 
me. . . . You know Miss Colthurst, don’t you ? ” he 
broke off to enquire as the door opened. “ Miss Colthurst 
is Mr. Sheridan’s personal secretary,” he explained in a 
tone designed to moderate his friend s criticism of their 
common employer. “Are they nearly through in there ? 



100 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“ I’m afraid I can’t tell you," the girl answered. “ Mr. 
Sheridan only sent for me to say he wouldn’t want me 
any more to-day." 

“ Um. I’d better remind him that Doyle’s still here." 

While Max was out of the room, Mallock put away 
his manuscript and took stock of Miss Colthurst as she 
sat down at her table and began to rip open a pile of 
letters. She was pretty, in a weak, fluffy way, he decided ; 
pink-and-white skin ; staring, expressionless blue eyes; 
overpainted lips. Then, as she bent over her work 
without returning his stare, he conceived a lively detest¬ 
ation for her. The skirt was too short, the blouse too low ; 
her shoes were too high, her stockings too transparent; 
her vivid ribbons were too visible, her musky scent or 
powder was all too pervasive. 

Still she refused to interest herself in him. 

“You coming with us on the great adventure, Miss 
Colthurst ? ” he asked. 

“Pardon? Oh, yes!" she answered; and Mallock 
was adding gentility to the list of her surface short¬ 
comings when Max returned. 

Through the baize-covered inner door, the work-room 
shewed blue with cigar-smoke. Peering into the haze, 
Mallock could distinguish Tony Rushforth in one armchair 
and Andrew Livingstone in the other. Mrs. Sheridan 
was standing by the window ; and Sheridan, his face 
thrown into darkness by the green shade of a reading-lamp, 
was at his writing-table, signing letters. The main door 
opened ; and Kenneth Doyle was brought in. Rushforth 
stood up and closed the inner door. Max yawned. Miss 
Colthurst continued to open letters. Mallock returned, 
with a sardonic smile, to his portrait of Ambrose 
Sheridan. 

After ten minutes a bell rang by Max's table. 

“ I can see Mallock now,” said Sheridan. “ I shan’t 


want you again, Tony^^QuTI^bg: Jiere in the morning, 

ro \ 


/ 


AFTER THE MILLENNIUM ioi 

Livingstone.” He read through and corrected a type¬ 
written memorandum, as he spoke. “ I shall want two 
copies of this, Hendry. The whiskey and soda, please, 
Hallam Those letters can go. I want you to make an 
appointment for me with Miles of the Board of Trade 
to-morrow, Hendry. Orpington has fixed his dinner for 
Friday. Sit down, Mallock. Lord Orpington says he can 
spare you if you’d like to come. This should be a great 
opportunity for you.” 

“ It should be a great opportunity for us all,” Mallock 
answered as soon as he was given a chance of speaking. 

Ill 

Action, words and setting, Max felt, had been designed 
for effect; and neither the effect nor the design was 
wasted on Mallock. 

“ World’s workers at work,” he muttered to his 
companion. “One: Mr. Sheridan. Does he remind you 

at all of m’ tutor ? ” 

In a tone similar to Sheridan’s, a whiskered and spec¬ 
tacled house-master had chosen Mallock, twenty years 
before, to occupy a position of trifling responsibility 
and had urged him to justify his tutor s confidence. 

“ If we can solve a problem that has baffled every one 

else ...” Sheridan began soberly. t M 

“ It's still a great opportunity, even if we can t. 

A suspicion of mockery in Mallock’s tone of innocent 
enthusiasm restrained Sheridan from pursuing is 

exalted generalizations. , 

“ That’s settled then ? You’re coming ? he askea. 
“ Good! We’ll discuss details later. Now about this 
dinner of Orpington’s: you’re organizing it? os 
coming ? What does Orpington propose to say now 

am I expected to reply ? Formally ? Or do I bring in a 
verdict before I’ve heard the evidence ? Help yourself 

to a drink.” 



102 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

While he mixed himself a whiskey-and-soda, Mallock 
glanced at the lines of framed caricatures that covered 
two walls. None was flattering, few were kindly ; and 
he experienced a brief sense of disappointment that the 
frames had not proved to contain vulgarly triumphant 
photographs of the great man receiving addresses, dis¬ 
tributing prizes and laying foundation-stones. When he 
had finished his inspection, Mallock found that Sheridan 
had been watching him and congratulated himself that 
his face was suitably grave. 

“ I’ve not had all the replies, but here are some of the 
names,” he began, pulling a crumpled list from his 
pocket. “ I thought the dinner should be as widely repre¬ 
sentative as possible, to give you a good send-off.” 

Sheridan studied the list in silence and handed it back. 

*' I suppose Orpington won’t be sorry to see the last 
of me, eh ? ” he enquired. 

“ He doesn’t tell me his private thoughts,” Mallock 
answered discreetly. 

” It’s very good of him to give us this dinner, but I 
really don’t know why he should.” 

It was my idea, sir. I reminded him that you and he 
hadn’t always seen eye to eye.” 

“ We’ve never disagreed to the point of requiring a 
public reconciliation,” Sheridan protested. 

“ That was only an excuse. I wanted to make your 
departure as dramatic as I could. If you’re going to 
succeed where every one else has failed, I wanted the other 
people to see you ; and I wanted you to see the other 
people. I don’t know how many will come, but I’ve invited 
them all, sir. Our saviours of society ! Baldwin and 
Macdonald, George and Asquith, Balfour and Grey, 
Birkenhead and Churchill, Northumberland and Snowden! 
I’ve asked the literary people, too ; Wells and Galsworthy 
and Shaw . . . And the newspaper men : Rothermere 
and Beaverbrook . . . Business men: McKenna, 



AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 


103 


U 


U 


Geddes . . . The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dean Inge, 
Old uncle Tom Cobleigh and all . . 

The sudden lapse into flippancy brought a smile to 
Sheridan's face; and Mallock, observing the smile, 
relaxed his former gravity and prepared to test his new 
chief with an exhibition of candour that might establish 
them for all time as men with no pretences to keep up. 
Saviours of society ? ” Sheridan repeated. 

It’s the name I give to all our public men since the 
war,” Mallock explained contemptuously. “A novelist 
is no longer content to write novels : he must save 
society or die—as a novelist—in the attempt. I ve invited 
the leaders of every school that has a plan for making 
this one small island a safe and happy place to live in ! 
Nothing more ! No Wellsian Utopia, where your clothes 
are taken away on arrival and you spend the rest of a 
prolonged life stark naked, carrying out experiments 
with test-tubes. You’d hardly call England a safe place 
now, sir. Well, all these people have had a try. They’ve 
all failed. They all know they've failed. They believe 
you’ll fail and they know you believe you won’t. I thought 

it would amuse you to meet them." 

Sheridan sipped his whiskev-and-soda reflectively and 
tossed his cigar-case across the table to Mallock. His 
expression and gesture were those of a man tossing 
pennies to a street musician whose voice had proved less 
excruciating than he feared. As Mallock cut his cigar, 
Sheridan opened his lips to ask if he too thought this 
mission would fail; but Mallock, on the briefest acquain¬ 
tance, did not seem the breed of rat to join a sinking s ip. 
Instead, he asked whether Lord Orpington was arranging 
an impressive despatch for a man whom he expected to 
see joining the swollen ranks of the unsuccessful saviours 

of society. , __ „ , „ u 0 

“ Orpington’s quite frank," answered Mallock. . 

doesn’t believe you or any one can do much good; but, 


104 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

if you think otherwise, he can’t take the responsibility 
of refusing you your chance.” 

“And he can afford to give a dinner to a man he’s not 
going to see for six months.” 

“ I don’t think he was trying to get rid of you, sir. 
I was with him when Lord Otway made the suggestion ...” 

Sheridan could not listen to the end of the sentence 
until he had adjusted his equation to a new and most 
unexpected factor. It was Otway, then, who had put 
this idea into Orpington’s head, urging that, whether or 
no the mission were fruitful, at least the Colonial Office 
would be left in peace for six months. Presumably he had 
not mentioned that Manchester Square would be left 
in peace for the same period. It was an ingenious move, 
Sheridan thought; and it revealed, more clearly than 
Lady Otway’s sly digs or Colin’s open antagonism, the 
instinctive dread, like that of a horse for a snake, which 
this family entertained for him. 

“ I like to know where I am,” said Sheridan, more to 
himself than to Mallock. 

Easy or brief the struggle was not likely to be ; but 
none of the struggles by which he had attained his present 
position could be called brief or easy. Auriol herself 
had still to be won : he could not rely on a schoolgirl’s 
admiration if the schoolgirl lost her heart to a good- 
looking boy of her own class. And Auriol’s mother and 
father, her brother and brothers-in-law and sisters had 
to be defied and beaten : there was no hope of winning 
them. And then Laura had to be coerced ; and Tony 
silenced ; and Livingstone overborne. 

Looking across to the chair which his wife had occupied, 
Sheridan observed a crumpled handkerchief on the floor. 
This was going to be a grimmer struggle than he had 
anticipated ; and it was only part of the greater struggle 
which he had been carrying on all his life. The Orpingtons 
were fighting as hard to keep him out of power as the 



io 5 


AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 


Otways to keep him out of their family. If he ever held 
office, it would only be because the Orpingtons and 
Standishs were afraid to withhold it any longer. Young 
Mallock might talk about unsuccessful “saviours of 
society”, collecting them for dinner as a cynical object- 
lesson in the forces which a Sheridan must expect to find 
opposing him, but these people would rather stand be¬ 
tween society and salvation than allow salvation to come 

by such a saviour. 

“After half-a-dozen years of the millennium,” Mallock 
was saying, “ people are wondering if they’re any better 
off than before the war. They find they’re not. Smaller 
security and greater discomfort; harder work and less 
pay. That’s the present state of society in spite of all our 
saviours. And they’ve all had a try. Liberal, labour, 
conservative, non-party. They’ve talked and written and 
prayed and preached till the gunpowder ran out of the 


heels of their boots.” 

“ We’re both of us better off than if there d been no 
war,” Max pointed out with disconcerting candour 
“ You'd have bin starvin’ at the bar; and I should 
be sellin' tips in sealed envelopes outside the Silver 

“ You and I can pull a few strings,” Mallock retorted. 
“ We’ve dropped into jobs till the next war or the social 
revolution ; but the mob that's ready to work and wants 
regular pay and has no particular quarrel with any one 
nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand in this 
country !—what have the medicine-men done for them . 
They've crippled the minority to demoralize the majority, 
without giving security to either. And these are e 
best brains in England ! . . . Charming old gentlemen . 
So white-haired and distinguished. Full of the precedents 
established by Mr. Gladstone. They’re alli dead, thoug 
nobody’s remembered to bury them ! The war they 
couldn’t prevent has created a world they can t control. 



106 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

Society won’t be saved by men who won’t recognize 
the new world.” 

“And you think that I . . . ? ” Sheridan began with 
a close-lipped smile. 

“ I don't think, I don’t know, I don't care,” Mallock 
answered. “ It won't matter if we fail. What matters 
will be if we’re found out. I think we should be able 
to provide against that. No use in a private press, other¬ 
wise. I said it was a rare opportunity for us all, but, if 
we don't get away with even the appearance of success, 
we shan’t be worthy of it.” 

As though he had not heard the last words, Sheridan 
leaned forward and drew a pile of typewritten letters 
towards him. 

“ Does Orpington think I’m going to fail ? ” he asked. 

" He hasn’t said so to me, sir,” Mallock answered. 
“You were asking what was expected of you on Friday. 
I don’t think anything in particular is expected. There’s 
a lot of curiosity among the people who don't know you. 
A lot of hostility among the labour people you’ve downed 
and the tories who think you’re waiting to down them . . 

“ But no confidence that I may succeed where these 
people—what did you call them ? The saviours of society ? 
—have failed ? ” 

“ I’ve no doubt there’s plenty of confidence in the 
country,” Mallock answered discreetly. “ You would 
hardly expect it at a dinner like this.” 

IV 

His air of discretion was blown away by the first breeze 
that met him as he opened the front door. Ambrose 
Sheridan, at close quarters, seemed even cruder than he 
had imagined at a distance ; and he hurried gleefully 
back to his chambers in the hope of fixing the new 
impression before the last of his Contemporary Statesmen 
was required by the printers. 



AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 107 

“ The direst disappointment of my life” he began with 
affected wistfulness, " is that I have as yet received no 
summons to the dinner which the Earl of Orpington is 
giving to Mr. Sheridan. A professional student of politics, 
as ever grappling with the question ' How Does It Seem to 
a Contemporary ? ’ finds himself excluded from a gathering 
where he might reasonably hope for light on political prob¬ 
lems that threaten to baffle posterity. ^ 4 s my readers are 
aware, Lord Orpington, on behalf of the government, is 
entertaining the Sheridan Trade Commission to dinner. 
There is to be a reception, to which I understand every one 
who is any one ’ has been bidden ; the list of guests will 
no doubt be published next day about the time that Mr. 
Sheridan is making his last dispositions before leaving. 
This much will be available for the historian; and it is 
hardly to be feared that the photographers who dog the 
Trade Commission's steps will be too much occupied else¬ 
where to obtain and distribute the last memorial that we shall 
enjoy for many months : Mr. Sheridan shaking hands 
with the colonial secretary and promising to return as soon 
as possible, Lord Orpington begging Mr. Sheridan not to 
return on his account, the prime minister protesting that 
they will rub along somehow without him and Mr. Sheridan 
Patiently reminding us all that no one can get on without 
him for long. This too will be preserved for the historian, 
but what will he make of it? What do Mr. Sheridans 
contemporaries make of our queer ways with men of destiny ? 
The facts of Mr. Sheridan's life are sufficiently well known 
and it would be alien to his open nature if he had ever 
discouraged the legitimate curiosity of the public about 
himself. At an age when most men are struggling to keep 
soul and body together, Mr. Sheridan was a millionaire 
One readier than 1 with an atlas would be required to put 
a finger on that part of the world in which he has not at 
some time made a fortune ; and in his early prime he was 
free to bring all his energy and experience to the dreary 



io8 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

tangle in which our public life had become involved. 
He was a business man—he has said so himself—and he 
asked only that the empire should be run on business lines. 
The successor to Mr. Horatio Bottomley, the forerunner 
of Sir Eric Geddes, a potential ally of both, he was deflected 
from his destiny by our late unhappy differences with 
Germany and by his own conviction that, in a war which 
sucked in the trained man of business no less inexorably 
than the trained soldier, his place was in the trenches. If 
any one has forgotten his appearance, in a private's uniform, 
in the House of Commons, a halting memory can be jogged 
by more than one lucky photograph and more than a thousand 
columns of the experiences, reflections and moral lessons 
which he extracted from the war. I seem to have been by 
Corporal Sheridan’s side when he went overseas ; his first 
photographs after being granted a commission are as familiar 
as those which were taken when he returned home a lieutenant- 
colonel with a D.S.O. In four and a half years of war 
nothing was ever allowed to come between Mr. Sheridan 
and the camera. 

“ The war, of course, came between us and a business 
government; but, when the gallant lieutenant-colonel 
unbuckled his sword, he beat it into a ploughshare with all 
the pent fever of long delay. That the furrow was lonely 
as that ploughed by Lord Rosebery mattered nothing to one 
who must plough or die ; and to plough the sand was better 
than nothing. It was all ploughing ; it was in the right direc¬ 
tion ; and the soil turned by his unwearying coulter resem¬ 
bled curiously and touchingly the ropes of sand which bound 
him to his political associates. At one period Mr. Sheridan 
called for a national party and urged that reconstruction 
should be as far removed from party politics as had been 
the war. By a happy coincidence, the national policy for 
a national party coincided with Mr. Sheridan’s own ; and 
those who differed from him had to bear the responsibility 
of placing party interests above national needs. That 



AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 109 

responsibility they seem to have accepted; and the national 
party remained a party of one in the obdurate days of 
coalition and conservative rule. With the advent of Mr. 
Macdonald, I understand that Mr. Sheridan was prepared 
to beat his ploughshare back into a sword if labour, in return, 
would only follow his punctual admonishments. So much 
advice was being offered at this time that the labour leaders 
can hardly be blamed for not following it all; for rejecting 
it, however, they paid the penalty of incurring Mr. Sheridans 
displeasure. The shortest memory can hardly have forgotten 
the remorseless blows of his criticism ; and, if the man who 
could form a new ministry had not been preferred to the lonely 
ploughman who had uprooted the old, Mr. Sheridan would 
have reaped his reward by being summoned to Buckingham 
Palace. 

“ It is here that the historian most blindly gropes. Natural 
enough, he may say, that the king should send for the leader 
of the opposition ; but most unnatural that Mr. Standish, 
in distributing portfolios, should not find one for his doughty 
if irregular ally. Perhaps it was offered and declined. 
Perhaps it was not offered. Old entanglements with liberalism 
and labour may have been inconveniently remembered; or 
Mr. Sheridan may have clung to his independence. Who 
shall say ? History will record that the man who made 
straight Mr. Standish's path to office never trod it in his 
company. 

“ Strange ! And yet less strange than what follows. For 
more years than one likes to remember and whatever the 
more immediate cause, government after government has 
tottered and fallen through its inability to cure the unem¬ 
ployment produced by the war. Before Mr. Standish had 
been in the saddle a week, careful observers of the obvious 
pointed out that the unemployed were still with us ; within 
the last few months Mr. Standish made the discovery for 
himself. What England thinks to-day, our unhurried 
prime minister may normally begin to think in a year s 



no 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


time ; for once, however, he has acted with Lloyd-Georgian 
rapidity and decision. Word is brought of a new prophet, 
who has been curing unemployment for uncounted years 
on every page of his numerous papers. ‘ Mr. Ambrose Sheri¬ 
dan ! “ He knows about it all ! He knows ! He knows ! ” 
Then let him cure it! Let him form his commission of 
enquiry , let him explore the empire! Let him do what 
he will so long as he goes away and stays away ! ’ 

“ Will the historian read this sinister motive into our 
simple prime minister’s mind ? There is a parallel: when 
Nicias wearied of hearing what Cleon would do if he were 
commander-in-chief , he retorted ‘ Well, do it! ’ And Cleon 
took command. Mr. Sheridan is pledged to find a policy 
for the government which has found no place for him. 
Should he fail, Mr. Standish is at least secured against his 
most formidable rival; should he succeed, the government 
will have a policy. Well, Downing Street is worth a dinner. 
And it may be hoped that the Sheridan press will be silent 
for at least six months. After that ? 

“ I wonder if the historian is justified in putting on Mr. 
Sheridan s grimly smiling lips : ‘After that, I come in ’ ? 
What if Cleon, in modern parlance, should ‘ deliver the 
goods ’ ? Will there still be no place in Mr. Standish’s 
ministry for the man who put the ministry in power and 
supplied it with a policy ? If any place, what place — ulti¬ 
mately—but the first place ? 

“ One would give much to see these Titans meeting 
urbanely round Lord Orpington’s hospitable board. One 
would give more to see inside their heads.” 

V 

At about the time when Mallock was writing the first 
word of his article, Sheridan was signing the last of his 
letters. 

Lying back in his chair, he reviewed the events of the 
day. Less than twelve hours had passed since he read 



AFTER THE MILLENNIUM 


hi 


Auriol’s note, less than ten since he had seen clearly for 
the first time after months of twilight groping. Laura 
now knew his decision, though she made no more com¬ 
ment on it than if he had announced his decision to spend 
Christmas in the moon : either she did not understand 
or she did not believe, though he had carefully begun 
by pointing out that their marriage was now dead in 
all but name. Livingstone knew and—characteristically ! 
—was reserving judgement till required to give it in six 
months' time. Tony Rushforth knew and knew also 
that it was foolish for him to cry before he was hurt: 
nothing would be decided for six months ; and, whatever 
happened, the most liberal provision would be made 
for his sister. The Otways knew. Auriol knew. There was 
nothing more for him to do unless he tried again to make 
poor Laura grasp the meaning of plain English. 

He was moving reluctantly to the door when Miss 
Colthurst came in with a pile of marked evening papers. 

“ Oh, didn’t you get my message ? ” he asked. “ I 
said, an hour ago, that you could go home.” 

” I wanted to tell you that I’d seen mother,” the girl 
answered. “ She says I can come.” 

Sheridan nodded and looked thoughtfully at the eager, 
smiling face before him. Evelyn Colthurst was only a 
year or two older than Auriol, but no one who saw the 
flushed cheeks and bright eyes would think of her as being 
cold or not yet awakened. 

“ It will be a great experience for you, if I can arrange 
it,” he told her. 

“ Oh, but you said . . .” 

“All the arrangements are provisional at present.” 
Some time, he reflected, this girl would have to be told 
in a formula hallowed by repetition, that everything 
as he supposed she knew—must have an end. If he had 
talked to Auriol two days before, he would probably have 
ended everything then, without suggesting that Evelyn 



112 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

should travel with him. He could make the mission an 
excuse for ending things now, but he had never contem¬ 
plated spending six months without a companion of any 
kind. That much even Auriol had no right to demand, 
especially if she were going to say that she wanted more 
time to think or that she could not go against her parents. 
He was leaving her free for six months ; and for six 
months his private life was no one else’s business. “ Have 
you begun to get your outfit ? ” he asked. 

“ Yes.” 

“ Well, unless anything unforeseen turns up . . . It 
will be a great experience,” he repeated. “ You will need 
to be very discreet. Run along now ! I’ve a lot of things 
to discuss with my wife.” 



CHAPTER V 


A Martyr in Spite of HerselJ 


"... Alack, one lies oneself 
Even in the stating that one’s end was truth, 

Truth only, if one states as much in words ! ” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 

I 

B Y a family tradition dating back at least to the 
childhood of Cohn, the younger Otways were privi¬ 
leged on their birthdays to assume, within the limits of 
reason, absolute control over the house in which they 
happened to be for those pregnant four-and-twenty 
hours. They ordered their own meals, they arranged 
their own parties, they invited their own friends. By 
courtesy and convention the dictator of the day found 
room for any parents or sisters who chanced to be accessible, 
but no pressure was applied and no rights claimed. On 
the night of his youngest daughter's twenty-second 
birthday, Lord Otway was obliged to visit her in her room 
and to enquire if his wife and he were expected at dinner. 

“ But of course, darling! ” Auriol assured him. 
“ You're taking in Mildred Killamey. Mummie has the 
duke. I've given myself Sir John Ferrers ..." 

" Have you invited the entire cabinet ? " asked her 
father, holding out his hand for her list. " Rodney, 
Ferrers, Avonmouth ... I hope Avonmouth will keep 
reasonably sober. Geoffrey Mallock, Max ... I'm glad 
you’re including a few people of approximately your own 
age ..." 

113 H 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


114 

“ My dear, it’s a positive children's party ! ” Auriol 
answered. “ Colin. Bobbie Selhurst and Winifred. Guy 
and Philip. I must be allowed to have a few of my own 
friends.” 

" Your own friends always seem to be about twice 
your age.” 

“ Because people of my own age are so woefully 
uninteresting. Poor darlings, it isn't their fault: they’ve 
not had time to do anything. About forty people of my 
own age burst in here this afternoon when I wanted to 
hear Mr. Sheridan on his mission. It was like a monkey- 
house ! ” 

Lord Otway surrendered the dinner-list and looked to 
see what Auriol was reading. It was Lanciani’s Ruins 
and Excavations ; and her choice reminded him that in 
a week’s time she would be safely in Rome, though even 
there she was more likely to be bearding Signor Mussolini 
than seeing the usual sights and enjoying the gaieties 
which the ambassador was arranging for her. 

“ I sometimes wonder, Auriol,” he ventured, “ if you 
don’t miss something by being so much older than your 
years.” 

“ But I adore all the usual things ! Hunting, dancing, 
parties ! In moderation, though. Thanks to you and 
mummie, we know a lot of rather wonderful people. I 
should never forgive myself later on if I’d wasted the 
chance of talking, say, to Mr. Sheridan in order to do 
cross-word puzzles with Winifred Selhurst.” 

It was the second time she had mentioned this ominous 
name in two minutes; and Lord Otway wondered in 
sudden alarm whether Rome would be in time to protect 
her. Though she had been by herself since tea, she had 
only reached the fourth page of Lanciani; and, when he 
came in, she was staring out of the window with clouded 
eyes. 

“ It would be more normal,” he suggested. “And, the 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 115 


older I get, the more I believe in sticking to the normal. 
If you do what every one else does, what the world for 
many generations has approved, you won't go far wrong.” 

“You also won't go very far,” Auriol predicted. 
“ Every one that's ever done anything has broken away 
from the normal. A man like Mr. Sheridan : well, he was 
saying to-day that he began by running away to sea, 

then he deserted from his ship ...” 

“ By the way, did he tell you when he was sailing ? ” 
Lord Otway interrupted. Auriol shook her head ; and 
he braced himself to attack an influence that was threaten¬ 
ing to become an obsession. “Auriol, my dear, we always 
discuss everything very frankly. I hadn’t meant to 
speak about this, but from something that Cohn let fall 
after tea . . .” 

He stopped as Auriol threw her head back and faced 

him with dangerously bright eyes. 

“ Let's have him in here,” she suggested. “ If he has 
anything to say, he’d better say it before me . . . 

“ I think he's with your sisters ...” 

“ Let’s have them too. And mummie. And Guy and 


Philip • • „ 

“ My dear, how can it possibly be any affair of theirs ? 

asked Lord Otway, forgetting to mention, perhaps fading 

to recall, that, when Joyce and Imogen first brought 

this unhappy entanglement to his notice, they dragged 

their reluctant husbands as additional witnesses to what 


“ everybody ” must be seeing, saying and thinking. 

“ It depends what they've been told. Perhaps, if they 
hear what happened and not what Cohn, who wasn t 
present at the time, thinks must have happened ... 

She threw herself into a chair, running impatient 
fingers through the gleaming waves of her chestnut ham 
“ You’ve not heard what I was going to say,” Lord 


Otway remonstrated mildly. 

Auriol’s impatient shrug warned him that the time for 



n6 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

hints and half-truths was over. With varying degrees of 
delicacy and an unvarying sense of embarrassment, they 
had all of them essayed a diplomatic approach. At one 
time he had deplored the comments that were made on 
his own niece for being seen so much in the brilliant and 
dissolute company of Lord Avonmouth, who was notori¬ 
ously living apart from his wife. Auriol, if she heard the 
parable, drew no moral from it. After that, Imogen 
had handed on the question of an unnamed friend who 
wanted to know what Auriol and Mr. Sheridan could 
have in common to make them inseparable. Joyce had 
recommended that, if an obviously innocent friendship 
was not to become furtive, Auriol should invite Mr. 
Sheridan to Manchester Square. Cohn, adopting direct 
action, constituted himself her chaperon whenever his 
engagements at the Staff College permitted. Up to the 
present, however, no one had put into definite language a 
rebuke or a complaint or a charge ; and Lady Otway 
at least was of opinion that, when people defined their 
meanings, they always said more than they meant. 

"As Sheridan is going away for six months,” Lord 
Otway persisted with a desperate smile that attempted 
to melt Auriol’s grimness, " I was only going to warn you 
against the dangers of excessive hero-worship. You’re 
so enthusiastic, Auriol, over the people who ‘ do things’, 
you’re so generous in your appreciation . . .” 

"We can discuss that some other time,” she inter¬ 
rupted. 

" Naturally, your enthusiasm calls forth an echo . . . 
Sheridan is a case in point. He told me to-day that you 
were the most brilliant girl he’d ever met. Well, as I 
said, lie’s going away for six months . . .” 

" So you want to know how I shall behave in six months’ 
time, when he comes back ? I can’t tell you ! He wanted 
to know ; and I couldn’t tell him. He wants to divorce 
his wife and marry me, daddy ; and I’m to tell him, when 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 117 

he comes back, what I think about it. Bit of a bomb¬ 
shell, wasn’t it ? I shall want the best part of six months 
to get over the shock! . . . I don’t know what Colin 
* let fall’, but, from what I know of him, I should think 
it was a large-size brick. You see, though, daddy, it isn t 
a question of hero-worship or of my ‘ getting myself 
talked about', as Colin would say. And, the sooner 
every one recognizes that, the better. A little realism, to 
use one of Mr. Sheridan’s words. Where’s the council 
meeting ? In the drawing-room ? ” 

II 

The family was still in session when Auriol, who had 
played a silent part for most of the time, intervened to 
remind the others that her guests would be arriving in 
twenty minutes’ time. 

“ I hope I don't have many birthdays like this,” she 
added with a sigh. 

For a moment she had hesitated on the brink of saying 
“ 1 hope I don’t live to have many birthdays like this,” 
but, though she was by now furiously angry, she would 
not cheapen herself with vague invocations of death or 

threats of suicide. 

“ I said at the beginning that we shouldn’t do any 

good by talking,” murmured Lady Otway. 

The heels of her words were trampled fiercely under 

foot by her children : 

“ That’s all very well, mummie . . 

“ I've said it before and I say it again. If that fellow 

sets foot in this house ...” >t 

“ I don’t know what’s come over you, Auriol . 

“ Let them talk ! It may prevent a stroke ... 

Lord Otway, rising mechanically like the top of a sa ety- 
valve whenever a new explosion threatened, once more 
demonstrated that Auriol was going abroad immediately 
for two months, Sheridan for six. It was no use for 



n8 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

anybody to meet trouble half-way, he told his elder 
daughters. 

“ That’s all very well," Imogen began again. 

“ You can’t possibly just let things drift," said Joyce, 
with the impatience of one who knew that this was 
certainly what both her parents proposed to do. 

Uninvited, her two sisters followed Auriol to her room 
with affectionate remonstrances that were not the less 
galling for their incompleteness. "Auriol dear, I don’t 
want to say anything against a man who’s a friend of 
yours.” ... " Darling, if it was only what we said, it 
wouldn't matter so much." . . . Lady Otway came in 
to see that Auriol was not bullied by the others; Cohn 
followed to be sure that the others were not bullied by 
Auriol. Lord Otway, watch in hand, hesitated by the 
open door. 

With her back to the family, Auriol fingered the dress 
which her maid had put out for her. She was in no danger 
of crying, but she would lose control of her temper if this 
inquisition went on much longer. Everybody was brow¬ 
beating her for something she had never said, something 
she had never done, something she did not even begin to 
understand. In the five hours that had passed since Mr. 
Sheridan blurted out so surprisingly that he was in love 
with her, no one had given her five minutes to consider 
whether she was in love with him, whether the help and 
inspiration she could bring him transcended personal 
questions of liking or disliking, whether she would share 
the responsibility of his divorce by marrying him after¬ 
wards. They all assumed she was in love ; they assumed 
that she wanted to break Mrs. Sheridan’s heart from 
sheer spite and to disgrace the family from whimsical 
perversity. 

" We’ve never had a thing of this kind before". 
Colin was reiterating grimly. “ “ 

Auriol turned from the dress to the stockings and shoes 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 119 


that went with it. A reply of any kind would stimulate 
him to rehearse the characteristics and history of the 
Otways through a dozen blameless generations. She would 
be reminded superfluously of their common aim and 
common sacrifices. Ever since he himself succeeded, 
Lord Otway had worked and worried to hand the business 
over to Colin as a going concern. The house and lands 
at Lokshott were settled in reasonable time to escape 
death-duties; and the family existed economically in 
Manchester Square for most of the year, on the fees which 
their father earned as a director. By degrees the encum¬ 
brances were being paid off, but, when Joyce and Imogen 
married, they were given only their clothes and the promise 
of a third share under their father’s insurance-policy. 
Cavaly and Wainwright, whose families were chained 
to Lokshotts of their own, accepted their lot uncomplain¬ 
ingly : as younger sons they knew what was expected of 
them ; as young men with sisters of their own, they real¬ 
ized that the women had been sacrificed in order that they 
themselves might be sent into the Household Cavalry, 
but all this was in the established tradition. The Otway 
inheritance must be kept intact; the Otway name must 
remain untarnished. Auriol herself had been so well 


schooled that she never questioned her father’s dispensa¬ 
tion. A time might come when England outgrew her great 
houses, as she had outgrown her border-castles ; primo¬ 
geniture might go by the board; daughters and sons 
might inherit equally and mate freely. Until that day 
dawned, however, she recognized loyally what was ex¬ 
pected of her; and she could not bear to have it stated 
for her in the form of a lecture by Colin. 

“ Sorry if you all think I’m going to let you down, 
she muttered. 

A faint quaver brought Lady Otway to the rescue of 


her youngest child. 

“ I think you’re all being very hard on poor little 



120 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


Auriol,” she remonstrated. " I trusted all of you when 
you were her age ...” 

“ You’d better not trust me, though,” Auriol broke out. 
One kind voice was enough to sap all her resistance. "A 
little more of this; and I elope with the sweep, if he turns 
out to be an eligible young bachelor ...” 

” If he isn’t, you can wait six months while he gets a 
divorce,” Colin muttered with venom. 

Auriol crossed to her brother’s side and patted his back : 

” Well done, Cohn ! It was rather spiteful and not very 
witty, but it’s done the trick. It’s made me angry ; and 
now I don’t care what I do. Listen to me, darlings ! I’ve 
told you exactly four million and three times what Mr. 
Sheridan—I still call him that !—what he said to me and 
what I said to him. Whether I've promised anything, 

I don't know, as I told you, Cohn. I shouldn’t care, if I 
had, because I was too much surprised to know what was 
happening. But I know and I promise you this : I shall 
do just what I hke without caring a snap of the fingers 
for any of you. I was quite ready not to meet Mr. Sheridan 
till you took it on yourself to forbid me, Cohn : now I 
shall meet him morning, noon and night till he sails. 
I’m not going to Italy, mummie. Is there anything else ? 
Oh, I shah write to him as often as I have anything to say. 
And, if he wants to marry me when he comes back, I 
shah give the matter my best consideration. This charm¬ 
ing little family difference started in my room downstairs, 

I believe ; we continued it in the drawing-room, up the 
stairs and into my bedroom. May I request the male 
members of the family to withdraw for about five minutes, 
as I don t hke undressing in pubhc ? Thank you, darhngs ! 
You won’t be late for dinner, will you ? It’s ‘ poor httle 
Auriol’s ' birthday-party 1 ” 

In spite of the warning, her mother and sisters lingered 
on, the one to curb the others. Joyce Cavaly fidgeted 
with the brushes and bottles on the dressing-table, < 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 121 


occasionally looking up to catch a mortifying glimpse 
of her own usually gentle face, now flushed and tem¬ 
porarily disfigured with anger. Imogen Wainwright 
sighed, raised her eyebrows, shrugged her shoulders and 
sighed again. Lady Otway sat with folded hands in the 
one armchair. 

" I suppose this is the result of Cambridge ...” ran 
one mutter. 

Imogen knew Cambridge only as a tourist in vacation, 
but the men of the family in which she was bred and those 
of the family into which she had married were agreed 
that " the modem girl ” was the creation of a " feminist ” 
movement originating in the universities and spreading 
disastrously to all girls’ schools. 

“ If you cared for him, I could make allowances . . .” 

ran another. 

Joyce had no toleration to spare for breaches of the 
marriage-law, but a favourite Cavaly girl had run away 
with a married man; and the family had to decide 
whether to ostracize the delinquent or to justify the 
delinquency. 

“ I care for his brain,” Auriol answered. "And that s 
alL Or it was all till this evening. You're making me in 
love with him against my will. You’re shewing me the 
imbecile prejudice he’s had to fight against all his 
life.” 

" I thought him singularly attractive at luncheon,” 
drawled Lady Otway. " I believe he has genius. If I were 
quite sure he hadn’t, I should want to marry him myself. 
But it’s a mistake for ordinary people, however gifted, 
to marry geniuses. Remember that when the time comes 
for you to decide, Auriol. Meanwhile, don t pay any 
attention to what other people say. They don t know 
anything more about life than you do. Come along, 
Joyce.” 



122 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


III 

When at last she had her room to herself, Auriol 
pressed her hands to her head and gazed despairingly at 
the clock. 

There was no time to think now. Her guests would be 
arriving any minute; and she must be ready to talk 
coherently. Max Hendry had to be thanked for the cock¬ 
tail-shaker ; the Duke of Killamey for a basket of orchids. 
She must find out from Max whether he was going with 
the Sheridan mission ; perhaps she could discover his 
unprejudiced opinion of Mr. Sheridan. 

Who else was coming ? Sir John Ferrers, well primed 
with amusing gossip from the Foreign Office; Lord 
Orpington ? No, he had failed her and was sending 
Bobbie Selhurst in his place. Bobbie and Lady Winifred, 
who must be set at once to retrieve poor Cohn’s lost 
temper for him. As every one knew, Cohn was—in his 
steely, reserved way—head over ears in love with Winifred 
Selhurst and was only waiting for a staff appointment; 
how would he have acted, how talked if Winifred had 
already been married to a man who made her wretched, 
a man who was only in name her husband ? 

“ Who else ? ” Auriol asked herself. 

She had collected a quiverful of politicians, partly 
because she had been brought up amongst them, partly 
because they—unlike the hunting and shooting breed 
of soldier whom her sisters had married—seemed pre¬ 
eminently men who “did things”. Who else ? There was 
Bertram Fortescue, the novelist, Macklin the portrait- 
painter, both rather suspect to Colin for the reason that 
she had invited them : they both “did things”. Eagerly 
and shamelessly Auriol had collected the men who 
painted her favourite pictures and wrote her favourite 
books; and Cohn was now reconciled to them as to 
harmless and ingenious animals that he had not before 
encountered. For all the flavour of Bohemianism attach- 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 123 

ing to Fortescue, Colin would not mind her marrying 
him. Mrs. Fortescue had died a dozen years before. It 
was only when a marriage continued in name when it 
was dead in fact ... 

Auriol forced her mind back to the party. Sir John 
Ferrers, if any one, was the man to tell her about the 
genesis of the mission and to confirm her suspicion that 
the cabinet was plotting to get Mr. Sheridan abroad and 
to keep him abroad till he had dissipated his formidable 
popularity. Did any of them realize that he might return 

a bigger man than he had set out ? 

She had half thought of inviting him to her party and 
had decided against it because she was sure he would be 
bored with an assembly of relations and old family-friends. 
Reviewing the party in prospect and trying to fit him 
into it, she was glad that she had resisted the impulse. 
In some way he would have produced a feeling of tension ; 
the others would have been opposed to him in outlook ; 
the table would have divided into antagonistic camps. 
Would it always be like this ? Must they always creep 
through life in parallel ruts ? Would a Max Hendry 
always say : “ Wonderful animal! Not in the stud-hook, 

of course ..." . 

And what did it matter if he did ? What, in his own 

wretched parlance, availed a line in the stud-book if you 

could not win races ? The Killameys and Otways and 

Hendrys might include a remote Sheridan in their pe - 

gree ; but, when you came down to facts, they were giving 

themselves ridiculous airs on the strength of a tracea e 

strain and a recognizable action, when Mr. S en an 

could beat the whole field over any one of a dozen s 

tances. They should feel honoured that he spare time 

to associate with them. And she should feel more t an 

honoured that he admired her. . . 

Pausing in the midst of her hurried undressing, Auriol 

analysed herself in the hope of finding how she attracted 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


124 

him. She was young, slight and clean-limbed, with the 
white skin demanded of chestnut hair. Her neck and 
breasts were finely modelled; her head well-poised; 
her features sharply, almost too sharply, chiselled. So 
far, so good ; but she was always the first to admit that 
Imogen, with her perfection and harmony, outclassed 
her in looks. And Joyce outclassed them both in charm. 
None the less, when her sisters came into a room, Auriol 
knew that Mr. Sheridan never turned his head. Was it 
her intelligence, her vitality or her mere youth that 
captivated him ? In intelligence she rated herself above 
the average ; and she was too young to have become 
devitalized ; but she possessed no quality in the super¬ 
lative degree. 

It was really difficult, she decided with a last look at 
her reflection, not to feel that England must be congested 
with her doubles ! 

“ My dear, this can’t go on! Don’t you know I’m in 
love with you ? ” 

Too much startled at the time for any other emotion, 
she now recalled Mr. Sheridan’s working lips and damp 
forehead as he declared himself. He was like . . . Auriol 
did not know what he was like ! A lion begging her not to 
hurt him ? A man, a mature man . . . Simply by being 
herself, she had thrown a mature man out of his stride. 
Was this abnormal susceptibility in one man, or had she 
the power to unbalance all men ? The question had never 
suggested itself to her, but, as she ran down to the drawing¬ 
room, she experienced a new, intoxicating desire to test 
Sheridan by other men and to test other men by their 
reaction to her. If she could stir Sir John Ferrers from 
his preoccupation with himself, or Max Hendry from his 
bovine placidity . . . 

Max, I want to thank you for your adorable present! ” 
she exclaimed, as soon as she had acknowledged a storm 
of good wishes. 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 125 

“ Feelin’ any older ? ” he asked. 

“Appallin'ly. Can’t stoop down to pick up your g's 
in the way I once did. I can still read big print without 
usin’ glasses, though. When are you off, Max ? ” 

“ I’m not. Don't come under starter’s orders.” Looking 
round the room, he lowered his voice. “ I can't tell you 
anything about it yet, but Sheridan dropped me a hint 
this afternoon that he had something on ice for me.” 

” I hope he has. It's about time.” 

“ Well, don't say it as though it were my fault! I've 
done all I was told since I went to him ; and one of the 
things he told me to do was to sit tight while he looked 
round for a better job. Now . . . Remember this time 
three years ago, Auriol ? ” 

Three years ago she was going up to Cambridge for 
the first time. The adventure of life was beginning; 
and she had never imagined that it could land her, 
through no fault of hers, in a position where one man 
talked of divorcing his wife to marry her and the family 
mobilized against her and everybody was within an inch 
of not being on speaking terms with anybody else. Life 
became complicated, as one grew up ; but, until one grew 
up, it could hardly be called life. To-day, for the first 
time, she was getting to grips with reality. 

“ Three years . . . ? ” she echoed, as Max seemed to 
be waiting for an answer. 

" I'd just come back to England . . .” 

“ Oh, yes ! You were being rather tragic and tiresome 
because nobody loved you and you couldn’t find anything 
to do. The unappreciated hero. I'm glad you’ve got over 
that stage.” 

“ It was all thanks to you,” he answered. 

y But you don’t seem to like the job I found you. 

" It was good enough to mark time in, but you couldn t 
marry and settle down on it. I’m a domestic sort of cove 
under a rough exterior . . 



126 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“ You ? My dear, you deceive yourself ! If ever there 
was a bom bachelor . . 

“ You didn’t think that three years ago.” 

IV 

Auriol checked with a thrill of excitement to note an 
abrupt alteration of tone. The banjo had been discarded 
for the guitar ; and Max was changing from rag-time to 
a serenade. Three years ago they had had a tremendous 
affair, she and Max : he had proposed to her, she had 
accepted him ; a ring was to be bought after the next 
Newmarket meeting, when he was confident of finding 
winners, and they would have published the engagement 
if Lord Otway had not ordered them to be sensible. 

“ What fun it was ! ” she laughed. “And darling 
father took it so seriously ! ” 

“ Didn’t you? / did.” 

" Max ! My dear, pull yourself together ! I was just 
nineteen, just going up to Cambridge. You weren’t 
much older, with no visible means of support. ‘ Prisoner, 
when arrested, described himself as a regular follower of 
racing . . .’ ” 

“ But you said you’d marry me as soon as I had 
enough to run the show,” he persisted. 

“As soon as we both saw a cow jumping over the 
moon ! The Greek Kalends ! As soon as a new age of 
miracles dawned ! ” 

Max faced her with the humility of one whose many 
friends never grudged the trouble of pointing out his 
limitations : 

“You made up your mind I was hopeless ? ” 

“ It, not you. I shouldn’t be so rude ! And it was 
pretty hopeless, wasn’t it ? That was three years ago, 
Max, and we haven’t made much progress since. I don’t 
know how much longer . . .” 

iou’re to wait ? I never asked you to wait five 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 127 

minutes. You said you would, but I told you it wouldn’t 
be fair. All I ask is that you shan’t declare a forfeit 
if I do tell you my luck’s turned.” 

Auriol found her truculence ebbing. Mr. Sheridan was 
not the only man she could infatuate at will, but a twinge 
of conscience at the sight of Max's humble constancy 
kept her from enjoying this new proof of power. He was 
too loyal a friend to be dangled on a string. 

“ Don’t let’s discuss it till there’s something to discuss,” 
she whispered. “ I want to know what the new job is.” 

" I haven’t been told yet. He has so many irons in the 
fire. If I had my choice . . ." 

As he began to build castles in the air, Auriol allowed 
her attention to wander. What was her present attitude 
to Max ? However important he had seemed in the days 
when she thought it would be exciting for her to be 
engaged, he was now, in some way, ceasing to matter. 
That being so, it was always better to end things good- 
humouredly. She would have felt happier, in her present 
quagmire oi uncertainty, if she could have been sure that 
she had ended anything : from his tone, Max seemed to 
feel that they were standing where they had stood three 
years before. At the same time, if he asked her with his 
embarrassing bluntness whether she wished to say 
good-bye, she would want to keep him. It was extra¬ 
ordinary how few men were content with friendship ; 
and it was extraordinary how almost underhand women 
had to become in struggling with men in their “ mamage- 
or-nothing ”, “ take-it-or-leave-it ” moods. While Max 
talked, with the frantic certainty of the gambler, about 
the work he would like, the work Sheridan could give 
him, the work he almost fancied had already been given 
him, Auriol tried to imagine what she would say if he 
reminded her again of her old promise. " Touchin ' the 
age of miracles, it's dawned all right. Cows jumpin' over 
the moon in all directions. What about it ? ” 



128 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


Throwing her head up suddenly, with the impatient 
fling which she could never control, Auriol found that 
she was being watched from three sides : by her mother, 
philosophically ; by her father, in perplexity ; by Imogen 
and Joyce, with reproach in their gentle eyes. Colin 
she could not see, but she could imagine an expression 
of dour resolution on his fleshless, red face. The family, 
she reflected bitterly, would welcome Max with out¬ 
stretched hands : the man who had saved her from making 
a fool of herself with Sheridan. They understood Max, 
who with a change of name might have bartered identities 
with Guy or Philip or Colin himself ; they knew on what 
page of what books to find him. Money apart, they would 
say, she had done well in marrying him (“ one of the Suf¬ 
folk Hendrys. He’s the heir to the baronetcy. A very useful 
polo-player. Plenty of ability if he’d only use it. Straight 
as they’re made. Not bad-looking in a narrow-faced, lanky, 
Spanish way. Any woman who married him would know 
where she was, if you understand what I mean ”). 

As a husband, Auriol conceded, Max would be trust¬ 
worthy and affectionate. He would also be entirely 
commonplace and uninspiring. Ten years hence, her 
parents would no doubt be giving a similar party, to Colin 
and his safe, stereotyped wife, whoever she might be ; 
to Joyce and Imogen, with their standardized husbands ; 
to Max and herself. Most of the servants would be the 
same. A coat of paint every few years would keep the 
room unchanged. Everything would be inexpressibly 
draught-proof and cosy. Then, as now, Colin would be 
laying down the law about “ communists ” as his father 
had laid it down about “ radicals,” his grandfather about 
liberals ' . Sir John Ferrers or his spiritual successor 
would be dividing men into “ live wires ” and “ revolu¬ 
tionaries”, “soldiers of fortune” and “men who’ve 
made their way to the top by their own unaided ability”, 
according to the side of the House on which they sat. 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 129 

Perhaps some one, mentioning Sheridan, would ventilate 
the room innocuously with a breath of vicarious adven¬ 
ture. "Amazing career that fellow's had! ” By then it 
would be safe for any one to say : “ D’you remember 
the passion he had for you, Auriol ? ” It would perhaps 
not be so safe for her to remember that she might have 
been blown along by the full gale of adventure if she had 
cared to fight her family. 

God knows I’m not out for love in a cottage,” Max 
was saying. “ That may be all right in a novel ...” 

In a novel or play, Auriol had to confess, pursuing her 
own thoughts, no girl ol spirit would hesitate. There the 
dice were always loaded against the hide-bound older 
generation ; and she would have despised any one who 
refused to tread the heights hand in hand with a superman. 
The conflict was more evenly matched when the hide¬ 
bound older generation was composed o r her own people. 
Before setting out to tread the heights she would probably 
be compelled to break with her family. The heights might 
prove less alluring on closer acquaintance. And she had 
yet to be convinced that Ambrose Sheridan was a super¬ 
man. To Colin he was, briefly, “a cad”; Sir John 
Ferrers called him ” very able and very dangerous ” ; 
Geoffrey Mallock, no fool, had come away from his first 
encounter that day, condemning him as “ a wind-bag”. 

Was she blinded by what her father called excessive 
hero-worship ? 

Or were these others blinded by antagonism to anything 
strange ? Always Sheridan came surrounded by an 
atmosphere of his own : the atmosphere of the actor who 
forgets he has left the stage and of the preacher who thinks 
he is still in his pulpit. Doubtless Napoleon carried with 
him the same air of demoniac energy, of passionate con¬ 
viction and ruthless will. Doubtless, with him too, the 
air was carefully cultivated : did not Napoleon admit that 

his passions, apparently uncontrollable, might rise to his 

r 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


130 

breast but never to his head ? Doubtless the Colins of 
Napoleon’s day, reared in the Regiment of Flanders and 
surviving to a more vulgar epoch, muttered pettishly 
that they did not mind his being a superman but that he 
should really get down from his stump and learn to 
behave himself when he was in other people’s houses. 

“ You’ve never told me how you get on with Mr. 
Sheridan,” Auriol murmured when Max had made an 
end of castle-building. 

He took time to consider before answering : 

“ He’s an odd mixture ; and I’m no hand at analysin’. 
You’ve heard him talkin’ about ‘ the people I represent, 
the people from whom I spring ’ . . 

" I honour him for not being ashamed of what some 
idiots call ‘ humble beginningssaid Auriol quietly, 
though she could have wished that a phrase which had 
impressed her at luncheon had not been used before 
to other audiences. 

“ I should honour him more if he hadn't been ashamed 
of the humble name he started life with. It happened 
to be Albert Sherdle ; and he changed it because the other 
sounded better. I expect his friends were calling him Bert. 
If you’re his friend, you’re made. If you’re his enemy, 
he won t rest till he's torn the flesh from your bones. 
I can t put it clearer than that. And it’s pure luck which 
you happen to be.” 

But if you re neither the one nor the other ? ” 

Give him a wide berth. He’s in a hurry ; and he don’t 
wait for people to get out of the way. I like him. He 
amuses me with all his stunts and gadgets. Underneath 
it all I feel he s just a great baby. He sulks like a baby. 
And he won t play if you don’t let him win. Literally, 
Auriol ! When I play squash with him, some precious 
muscle begins to let up on him as soon as he’s losin’. 
And, by gad, he storms and chucks things about like a 
baby when he s angry. One of these days he’ll come to 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 131 

grief over that. He’s badly balanced. If you oppose 
him . . .” 


“ He’s been pretty stiffly opposed all his life," Auriol 
interposed defensively. 

“ By the people who are against him : that’s fair 
enough. But, if you’re on his side and you dare to dis¬ 
agree, he’s quite equal to throwin* everything up, cuttin’ 
the country ...” 

Auriol remembered the house in Ottawa, which was 
awaiting Sheridan’s retirement. She remembered, too, her 
own protest against his making her responsible for the 
shipwreck of his career. If Max was to be believed, it 
was waste of breath to protest. 


V 

At the end of dinner Auriol went to her room for an 
interval of peace before the men came up. 

“ Five minutes, only five minutes," she caught herself 
whispering, “ to think things out." 

In dismal, nerveless reaction from her fury of the 
afternoon, she saw Joyce fidgeting with the brushes on 
the dressing-table and tidying her storm-tossed curls; 
she saw her mother, white-haired and plump, placidly 
waiting for all these sharp tongues to blunt themselves 
with their own violence ; and she saw herself, slowly 
undressing, fiercely biting her lips when she was unob¬ 
served, cunningly stringing phrases that were cruel 
enough to hurt and not so cruel as to betray that she had 
lost command of herself. A hideous picture ! The more 
hideous for the immediate contrast, when they all offered 
her a tacit apology, when Colin—awkwardly compromis¬ 
ing between the affectionate brother and the stem 
deputy-patriarch, murmured that it was rotten luck 
this should all have happened on her birthday. If one of 
her presents had been the usual three wishes—or two, 
one!—she would have wished everything unsaid or 



132 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


forgotten. If she could assemble people by clapping her 
hands, she would tell her mother that she was coming to 
Italy after all; she would assure Colin that she was not 
going to let them all down ; she would beg her father 
not to look so worried. If these wretched people would 
only go, she could say it all now ! 

The rumble of deep voices floated up the stairs and 
through her open door. She raced down, to reach the 
drawing-room before the men came up, and squeezed in 
as her father, from an invisible depth, called up : 

“ Take your cigars with you ! We smoke all over the 
house.” 

A moment later, the Duke of Killarney came in, fat, 
amiable and dense, with Sir John Ferrers : a waddling 
gander with a twittering sparrow, Auriol decided. They 
were talking in undertones ; and she divined that they 
were discussing the Sheridan mission. 

“ Side-tracking him, eh ? ” the duke was asking. 

“ He’s the obvious man for the job,” the foreign 
secretary answered without committing himself. 

Geoffrey Mallock entered next, a little flushed and more 
than a little voluble, his eye-glasses askew and his pallid 
face in some way sinister ; then came Max ; then Lord 
Otway. An indistinguishable cluster lingered in the door¬ 
way. While the older men looked for chairs and audiences, 
Colin kicked the rugs aside and left the room, muttering 
“ gramophone.” 

Auriol, cross-legged on a cushion by her father’s chair, 
looked on with a frown of mild perplexity. Bobbie Selhurst 
and Max, Geoffrey and the duke had all asked her to 
dance, but she wanted an opportunity of apologizing 
for the temper and turmoil of the day. Now that the 
opportunity was made, she neglected it and returned to 
the question that had been puzzling her throughout the 
later stages of dinner: how, fundamentally, did Mr. 
Sheridan differ from these others ? He would be out of 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 133 

place in the strictly conventional dining-room, but he 
would be more out of place up here. The tumbled rugs, 
the gramophone, the spectacle of Lady Otway with 
Mallock would have removed him to an eminence or at 
least to a distance. He could never unbend ; or, if he 
unbent, it was in a way different from theirs. He would 
think all this undignified, never dreaming that dignity 
was relative and that every class had its own, capricious 
standard. 

A word like “ class ” made Auriol shiver ; but it was 
the only explanation of an indefinable difference that 
made the success or the failure of a party. Confronted 
with another "class", every one in the room would have 
been “ class-conscious " ; and, if Mr. Sheridan had been 
there, he would have been “ conscious " of every one, 
ultimately antagonistic to every one. Nobody would have 
felt quite at ease, which was another way of saying that 
Mr. Sheridan had not been brought up in quite the same 
tradition as the others. Only a fool, setting the duke and 
Mr. Sheridan side by side, would maintain that the one 
tradition was better than the other, but it was interesting 
to discover that the difference existed. T his party would 
never feel quite at ease with Mr. Sheridan ; and he would 
never feel quite at ease with this party, i he impression 
might be analysed and explained, but it could not be 
dismissed. 

"And it’s not only politics," Auriol decided, as the 
couples swung by. “ My lord Selhurst and Winifred and 
Lady Orpington have to dislike him for the honour of 
the family. And Sir John has a personal feud. And the 
duke is always pulled by his die-hards in the Morning 
Telegraph. But the others ? Guy and Philip, my own 
brothers-in-law, who’ve only met him here when he s 
laid himself out to be charming ? Is it that they have no 
imagination ? " 

She wondered what Mr. Sheridan was doing at that 



134 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

moment. Working, of course; and, while he worked, 
forgetting that such a person as Auriol Otway existed. 
Did he realize the solid square of antagonism which he 
had called into being ? It was frightening ! It was also 
stimulating. Any one with a spark of chivalry must 
admire his courage. Single-handed, as always, in whatever 
he attempted . . . 

The first dance ended ; and Max began to hunt through 
a pile of records. Colin crossed the room to enquire why 
Auriol was being so idle. 

" I like looking on, once in a way,” she answered. 

“ Have the next one with me,” he suggested. 

Auriol began to shake her head and then suddenly 
jumped to her feet. Colin was sorry ; he wanted her to 
enjoy herself; he was wasting on her a dance that he 
would rather a hundred times have had with Winifred 
Selhurst. 

“ I’d love to ! Thank you,” she answered. 

Max was still muttering the names of outmoded 
records when the butler appeared at the door. 

" Miss Auriol, sir,” he told Cohn. “ Wanted on the 
’phone.” 

" Can’t you take a message ? ” asked Cohn. “ Who 
is it ? ” 

“ Mr. Sheridan, sir.” 

“ Oh ! ” Cohn turned to find that Auriol was at his 
elbow. " He’d better say you’re engaged, hadn’t he ? 
I mean to say . . 

“ Put him through to my room, will you ? ” said 
Auriol. 

The butler bowed and withdrew with a murmured 
“ very good, miss.” Auriol was preparing to follow when 
she felt her brother’s hand closing over her wrist. 

“ I think you’d better let me deal with this,” he whis¬ 
pered. 

“ What d’you mean ? It’s me he asked for.” 



A MARTYR IN SPITE OF HERSELF 135 

" No need for a scene ! I say again, I think you'd better 
let me deal with this.” 

“And I say you’d better mind your own business, 
Cohn ! Let me go ! ” 

“ Not so quickly ! We can’t fight this out here . . 

“ I don’t want to fight anything out anywhere. You 
can let me go or not as you please, but there’s no need 
to hurt me, which is what you're doing now. Thank 
you ! Go down and * deal with ’ the thing, if you like, 
but be careful what you do. You can make my apologies 
and say we have people dining. Or you can let me speak 
for myself. It makes no difference, because I shall tele¬ 
phone on my own account as soon as these people have 
gone.” 

“ We’ll see about that.” 

He strode to the door; and Auriol walked slowly 
back to her father's chair. 

“ Telephone,” she explained briefly. Then, though she 
had meant to curb her tongue, she could not help adding : 
" It’s Mr. Sheridan. He wants to speak to me, but Colin 
felt obliged to take the message. I hope he's not being 
rude. I’m not sure I shan’t go to Italy after all. I can’t 
stand much more of Colin in his present mood. What s 
the matter with him, daddy ? ” 

“ I think he was rather surprised ... in fact, we aH 
were ...” began Lord Otway. 

Auriol did not listen to his answer. Ill-directed violence 
missed its mark ; and she was almost sorry for her parents 
in that they were suffering for the folly of Joyce and Colin. 
If they had left her alone, there would have been no 
trouble; but now, though she was utterly indifferent 
to Ambrose, she would cheerfully have run away with him. 

-She wondered what Cohn was saying. He was dread¬ 
fully limited, poor boy ! Probably he was explaining 
the first principles of ethics, as they were understood 
by the Otways, reminding Mr. Sheridan that a man prom- 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


136 

ised at marriage to cherish his wife in sickness and health, 
weal and woe, even when he was tired of her. By Otway 
ethics, no man ever defaulted on a bargain ; no man 
ever complained that a bargain was hard. 

" I said you were engaged,” he announced smoothly, 
on his return. 

“ Did you say I’d ring him up later ? ” asked Auriol. 
“ No.” 

“ Oh . . . well, it doesn’t matter. I will I’m sorry 
this business has been a surprise to you all ; it was a 
surprise to me too. For the future, whatever I do, you’ll 
none of you have the slightest excuse for being surprised ! 
I don't think I’ll dance this, Colin, after all.” 



PART II 


CHAPTER I 
Saviours of Society 

' This I see clearest probably of men 
With power to act and influence, now alive : 

Juster than they to the true state of things ; 

In consequence, more tolerant that, side 
By side, shall co-exist and thrive alike 
In the age. the various sorts of happiness 
Moral, mark !—not material—moods o’ the mind 
Suited to man and man his opposite : 

Say, minor modes of movement—hence to there. 

Or thence to here, or simply round about— 

So long as each toe spares its neighbour’s kibe, 

Nor spoils the major march and main advance.” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohcnstirl-Schwangau, 

Saviour oj Society. 

I 

G EOFFREY MALLOCK’S " portrait of Mr. Sheridan " 
for the gallery of contemporary statesmen in the 
Weekly Review had all the success that he had expected 
in torturing the vanity of his victim. Drifting into the 
secretaries’ room two days before the Koh-i-nor was 
scheduled to sail, Mallock found Max Hendry knitting his 
brows over a piled tray of cuttings and was asked if he 
could identify the anonymous author of his own article. 

“A fellow who knows how to write,” Mallock answered 
approvingly. “ What are these ? ” 

He pulled over a pile of caricatures and studied the 
trade commission in the mirror of the popular press. 

137 



138 saviours of society 

After nearly a fortnight of discussion, the public seemed 
to have realized that there was more in the appointment 
than the official announcement had suggested. “ Can’t 
you go ? Must you stay ? ” was the legend under the 
principal cartoon in Puck ; and the cowering leaders of 
the Standish government, with the colonial secretary 
at their head, were represented as pushing Mr. Sheridan 
up the gangway of his ship and assuring him that he need 
be in no hurry to return. The Sheridan press concen¬ 
trated its attention on a different aspect of the struggle 
and symbolized it more flatteringly : in one paper Mr. 
Sheridan was drawn as Cincinnatus, summoned from his 
plough to save Rome; in another, intended for less erudite 
readers, he was shewn—in the cartoon of his own choice— 
in conversation with the reassuring shade of Buonaparte, 
being reminded that “ They tried to get rid of me too.” 

“ The chief’s told me to find out who wrote this,” 
Max explained as he retrieved the offending article. 

“ Doesn’t he like it ? ” asked Mallock. 

" He never likes bein’ laughed at, but he appreciates 
good ink-slingin’. He’d like to get this fellow for one of 
his own papers. Poor old Blue Peter is next on the list. 
The chief is only waiting till the mission starts, so that 
he won’t seem to have a hand in it. And then he’ll go 
for him as he went for the labour people. If Blue Peter 
thinks he’s going to have six months' holiday, he’s makin' 
the mistake of his life.” 

” He’ll take some shifting,” predicted Mallock, who 
had worked long enough for Lord Orpington to appreciate 
his tenacity. “ The mob loves him.” 

” I know, but Lady Orpington told me these attacks 
were getting on his nerves. A pity . . .” 

Max turned to another cartoon in which the colonial 
secretary, menaced by a yapping cur with “ Sheridan 
Press ” on its collar, was assured by John Bull that the 
brute was not worth a thrashing. For more years than 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 139 

either young man could remember, the public had capri¬ 
ciously decided to make an idol of “Blue Peter". The 
Orpington racing colours—cornflower blue with white 
sleeves and a tasselled blue cap—were known on every 
course ; the crowd parted to make way for his blue Rolls- 
Royce ; and he himself was cheered in the streets as he 
rode in a blue cut-away coat and square bowler to the 
Colonial Office. Even the genteel typists with shingled 
hair, whom he addressed in the oaths of the Regency, 
were only restrained from cheering by their native 
gentility. To the populace, he was almost the last and 
quite the most picturesque representative of a vanishing 
order, who recalled the great days when a prime minister 
could lead in a Derby winner; if more of his kidney 
devoted themselves to public life, so much the better 
it was felt—for public life. Who ever heard of labour 
troubles in the eighteenth century ? And it was to the 
third and fourth Georges that Lord Orpington belonged: 
“ the right man in the right place, even if it was the wrong 
century,” as Mallock once remarked of his public position. 

Though “ reconciliation " was the order of the day, 
only a political backwoodsman could doubt that a war 
without quarter would be waged between Lord Orpington 
and Mr. Sheridan during the next twelve months. Only 
a political gambler would have ventured, however, to 
say which would drag himself away from the battle-field 
alive. Orpington, as Sheridan had the best means of 
knowing, would be difficult to unseat so long as the popu¬ 
lace worshipped his personality and ignored his qualities 
as an administrator. He would be hard to unseat so long 
as he remained in public life from a sense of public duty, 
fancying simple-mindedly that he had ended a political 
crisis by winning the Oaks and believing without arrogance 
that the dominions were comforted to have at the Colonial 
Office a member of the Jockey Club who ran his own pack 
of hounds and possessed the finest herd of shorthorns 



140 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


in England. Sheridan, as nobody knew better than 
Orpington, struck to kill. 

“ I'll tell the chief I can’t find out who wrote the beastly 
thing,” said Max, making for the door of the work-room. 

“ His own people in Fleet Street . . suggested 
Mallock, secure in his anonymity. 

“ He’s been to them already. Final council of war this 
morning. ‘ Gentlemen he mimicked, “ * I have sum¬ 
moned you here to say that, if I have any recommenda¬ 
tions to make, people must be ready to hear them. And 
the government must be ready to act on them. Not that 
I’ve much hope of the government so long as Orpington 
is at the Colonial Office.’ In other words,” Max translated, 
“ a good show for the old man and none at all for 
Orpington.” 

II 

It was a day of final councils, to be ended by Lord 
Orpington’s dinner to the mission. Editors, managers, 
trustees and secretaries had all been given their orders. 
The Colonial Office had arranged a suitable reception at 
each port-of-call ; and Sheridan, to judge from his con¬ 
versation, was already preparing for his return. Nothing 
was being left to chance. If any one blundered, it would 
not be for want of priming ; but, in Sheridan’s organiza¬ 
tion of his life, no one was allowed to blunder. 

" Nothing more you want me to do ? ” asked Andrew 
Livingstone at the last council of all. “ You’re feeling 
fairly optimistic ? ” 

“ Should I have undertaken this job if I couldn’t 
carry it through ? ” Sheridan asked with the unconcealed 
arrogance which he reserved for the ears of his one con¬ 
fidant. ‘ The insoluble problem of unemployment ’ ! 
How sick I am of that phrase ! I could cure unemploy¬ 
ment to-day, as it was cured in America, by a managed 
currency, i could cure it from this chair.” 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 141 

That device of Keynes ? " asked Livingstone. “ Why 
don’t you ? " 

Sheridan looked long at his friend before answering. 
Not even to Livingstone did he confide all his thoughts ; 
and, as an artist in public effects, he shrank from dis¬ 
closing his methods. His success would be more indivisibly 
his at the end of six months spent with the eyes of the 
world upon him ; his policy would not then be described 
as some one else’s “ device ” ; and it would be more 
striking when a challenge had been thrown down and 
picked up than if he passively propounded his remedy 
now. Moreover, though he could solve the riddle in his 
own work-room, he would prefer to solve it from the 
Colonial Office. 

“ If Standish won't follow America’s example,” he 
answered, “ I see no reason why he should follow my ad¬ 
vice. He’ll listen to talk about imperial trade and guaran¬ 
teed credits when his hair would stand on end at a man¬ 
aged currency. Well, if he wants the Union Jack, he 
shall have it; and I shall strengthen my position at home 
and abroad. Poor old Standish ! And yet I can’t blame 
him. He’d quote the Treasury and most of the banks 
and all the old-fashioned economists ; but, if he wants 
to see unemployment disappearing like water from an 
emptying cistern, he can see it to-morrow. You saw it, 
if you were watching, in America after the slump. People 
here are so obsessed by the idea of money : if they'd 
think of purchasing-power instead. . . . Let the Bank of 
England loosen its purse-strings. Lend, lend, lend ! 
New purchasing-power means new purchases; new 
purchases mean new orders to manufacturers; nrw orders 
to manufacturers mean new orders to growers and shippers, 
an increase of employment all round, a wider distribution 
of wages which in turn means more purchasing-power, 
a second set of new purchases, a second set of new orders to 
manufacturers as the newly employed workman orders 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


142 

new boots and clothes and cottages ! It’s an endless 
chain of cause and effect, with purchasing-power as the 
primum mobile. As that's restricted, employment is 
restricted ; as it’s increased, employment is increased.” 

Carried away by his own enthusiasm, Sheridan was 
revealing more clearly than he had intended that his 
prestidigitation and his patter about imperial markets 
were designed only to draw the attention of his audience 
away from a trick nearer to hand. He examined Living¬ 
stone’s face to see how far he had betrayed himself. 

Livingstone, he found, was smiling : 

“ So, whatever comes of the mission, you've always this 
purchasing-power business to fall back on ? ” 

Sheridan nodded : 

" I shouldn’t have accepted the mission, otherwise, 
though I don’t believe we shall need to touch the currency. 
Trade began to improve on the day I accepted Standish’s 
invitation. It will go on improving. Nothing succeeds 
like success, but some one must start the success. 
Fortunately, the public believed in me. If it hadn’t 
. . .” He shrugged his shoulders. ” I can’t risk a public 
failure.” 

“ You're ready enough to take other risks,” Livingstone 
hinted. 

“ We won't go into that again ! ” Sheridan snapped. 

Livingstone stretched himself in his chair and laughed 
with an unconcern that shewed he was not to be brow¬ 
beaten when a client had to hear unpalatable truths. 
With his long legs and short body he looked like a mon¬ 
strous tadpole ; and the tadpole idea was strengthened 
by a bulging forehead and a runaway chin. His moustache 
was sandy and irregular ; his hair a sandy net spread 
over a gleaming dome. Conscious of his insignificance, 
he derived a queer pride from it, as a small stinging-fly 
might derive pride from the consciousness of its poisonous 
strength. 



143 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

"Any new developments ? ” he asked. 

" Not that I know of. I think her parents have been 
persecuting her a certain amount." 

“ Then they're playing your game for you.” 

“ They would be if I were in a position to marry her 
at once. As it is, they’re simply unbalancing her. I don’t 
want an hysterical ‘ yes ’ to-day, followed by an equally 

‘ no ’ in six months’ time. It must be her cool, 
considered judgement. We shan’t hold any communication 
while I’m away. I’ve given Otway an undertaking to 
that effect." 

“ He's playing your game for you again. A six months' 
correspondence would probably end things. Is your wife 
becoming any more reconciled to the idea ? " 

Sheridan’s powerful face crumpled into sudden petu¬ 
lance, like a spoilt child’s : 

“ I can’t discuss it with her. I don’t care much about 
discussing it with any one. For six months we’re going 
to let things remain exactly as they are. If Auriol and I 
are both of the same mind then, we shall go through with 
it." 

" You've got that far, have you ? And you say there 
are no new developments ! " 

" She promised me yesterday." 

Livingstone whistled softly to himself and walked to 
the window and back without answering. On coming 
opposite his friend, he threw up his head and laughed at 
some thought which he would not divulge. 

" Then I must give you my opinion without waiting 
six months. It won’t pay, Ambrose.” His eye was caught 
by the open copy of the Weekly Review ; and he glanced 
at the marked page while he waited for an answer. ‘ This 
too will be preserved for the historian, but what will he make 
of it ? ’ he read. “ It won’t pay. We're at a transitional 
stage : in another ten years you could do what you liked ; 
you could do what you liked now, if you were anybody 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


144 

else. As it is, you’ll make the third to Parnell and Dilke. 
Society will cast you forth. The historian will probably 
think rather poorly of society ; he’ll write an essay on 
The Divorce-complex in English Politics. . . . That’s 
how it strikes a contemporary. You’re going to disregard 
my advice . . .” 

“ If I do, it’ll be the first time,” Sheridan interrupted 
with sudden indecision. 

“ But you will. Hitherto I’ve only talked to your head ; 
and that was always easy to reach. I can’t argue with your 
heart. I don’t want to. This may be a case of the world 
well lost for love. I only want you to understand that 
you will lose the world. You can’t have both. . . . Now 
I won't preach at you any longer.” 

As Livingstone went out by one door, Max came in 
by the other to warn Sheridan that it was time for him 
to dress. He had to repeat the warning ; and, even when 
Sheridan was half-way upstairs, he but dimly apprehended 
that he was to be the guest of honour at Lord Orpington’s 
farewell banquet. Something, Max decided, was ruffling 
the massive calm of his chief’s mind. Was he worried 
about his speech ? Was he daunted by Geoffrey Mallock’s 
talk about the unsuccessful " saviours of society ” who 
were being assembled to honour in advance the successful ? 
Had Livingstone been abusing his privilege of plain 
speaking ? 

" Damn the fellow, why doesn’t he get a move on ? ” 
Max whispered to himself, as Sheridan came to a stand¬ 
still by a window on the stairs and gazed across the park 
to the distant towers of Westminster. “ Sorry, sir ! I 
didn’t catch what you said ! ” he called out, as an indis¬ 
tinct mutter floated down to him. 

Sheridan turned with a start and seemed suddenly 
to awaken. 

“ I was thinking aloud,” he explained. “ Nothing ! 
I shall only be a few minutes. . . . You can't have both," 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 145 

he repeated in a whisper when he was by himself in his 
dressing-room. 

Livingstone was very sure ! Livingstone was also 
very sound. He was too sound, too sure ! “ You’re going 
to disregard my advice . . .” Livingstone knew him 
better than he knew himself, but did he know public 
opinion better than the man whose flair had brought him 
to the threshold of the cabinet ? 

As he bathed and dressed, Sheridan ran over the inter¬ 
views of the last five hours. He was going to succeed 
where every one else had failed ; and on his return in six 
months' time he would be invited to cross the cabinet 
threshold. In six months’ time he would have Auriol’s 
answer and would know whether she had prevailed over 
her family. It was not unduly optimistic to hope that in 
six months poor Laura would have seen what every one 
else had been seeing for six years. He would have beaten 
her friends and Auriol’s family, he would have triumphed 
over the failures who were now struggling to keep him 
out of office. He would have the place he desired and the 
woman he needed. 

Yet, if Livingstone was to be believed, he could not 
have both. If Livingstone was to be believed, this night 
marked the moment of his greatest decision. Sheridan 
paused in his dressing and walked to the window. One 
or the other ? What a ridiculous question ! He would 
have both ! If indeed he had been obliged to choose, the 
choice would have been hopeless : there was no satis¬ 
faction in his victories until Auriol shared them ; and, 
without her inspiration, he could not even be sure of 
winning. The converse—what had Livingstone called it ? 
"Love; and the world well lost "—he had never con¬ 
templated. 

And it was by refusing to contemplate failure that 
Sheridan had so far not failed. By refusing to contemplate 
illness he was hardly ever ill. Suffering had never, since 



146 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

he grew up, thrown its shadow across his life ; he refused 
to contemplate that it ever should. 

“ No cleverness of mine," he muttered, returning to his 
interrupted dressing. 

Prudence might safeguard health ; and perseverance 
might ensure against some failures. It was providence 
alone, however, or luck, a man’s star, whatever any one 
liked to call it, that determined why, of two men, one 
should prosper while the other was born unto trouble 
as the sparks flew upward. His enemies called him 
mockingly “the man of destiny”, not seeing that every 
one was a man of destiny. 

As he walked downstairs, Sheridan saw his wife’s patient 
head in the hall. She, now, seemed predestined to un¬ 
happiness ; and young Hendry, if he was seriously 
attached to Auriol, was predestined to a taste of dis¬ 
appointment. 

Ill 

In spite of his secretary’s warnings, Sheridan was ten 
minutes late in reaching the Orpingtons' house. 

Polishing his speech ? ” Mallock enquired of Max. 

“ 1 f eel I could make it for him. And Blue Peter’s. 
However . . . 

' Since forced to muse the appointed time 
On these precious facts and truths sublime ,— 

Let us fitly employ it, under our breath, 

In saying Ben Ezra’s Song of Death.’ 

I told you all these people were dead ? They don’t know 
it, but they are : all the saviours of society.” 

Max looked round the crowded drawing-room and edged 
his way towards an easel where a plan of the table was 
displayed. 

“ 1 should have said most of them had no known form,” 
he grunted. “ Where did you find 'em, Geoffrey ? ” 

I ve been collecting them ever since the war. You 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


147 

remember it: the war to end war ? Society was tottering 
at the armistice and is not quite steady on its legs yet. 
But with the help of these gentlemen . . . General Sir 
Sutton May ! He’ll save society by giving us all six 
weeks’ training a year and proclaiming martial law as 
a cure for strikes. Viner ! The brains of socialism, who 
drops his aitches from sheer contempt for the bourgeoisie : 
he’d save us by nationalizing industry. I wanted Winston 
to meet him : Winston would save us here and now if 
we’d accept him as our English Mussolini. The Bishop 
of Exminster ! He’d save society the world over by 
reconciling the Christian churches. Lord Walstow! 
He could save society to-morrow and in a hundred 
different ways if only more people would buy his papers 
and vote as he tells them and let Fleet Street run the 
government. You see I’ve tried to make salvation as 
variegated as possible. Fleming ! He’d save society by 
increasing the bureaucracy. Admiral Trench : see under 
General Sir Sutton May, the marine species of the same 
genus. A covey of politicians ! Hyde Masterman, Tracy- 
Tracy, Kenneth Doyle. Nothing to say about them, 
except that they’re all as dead as the parties they pretend 
to lead. Hullo ! Here’s the man who’s going to march us 
into the promised land ! ” 

Though he was accompanied by his wife, Sheridan 
contrived to enter alone ; and the mutter of voices, 
which had fallen as she came in, died into silence when his 
own name was called. Of the fifty men in the room, he 
was almost alone in being without decorations ; and the 
conventional cut and colour of his clothes appeared in 
agreeable low-relief against his host's high-shouldered 
blue coat and strapped trousers. 

“If I am late, you must forgive me. My time is not 

quite my own at present.” 

The apology delivered, Sheridan employed the interval 
before dinner was announced in exchanging salutations 



148 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

with his neighbours and displaying what the Sheridan 
papers had been taught to call their master’s “ royal 
memory”. Mallock watched with malicious interest. 
He had been right in saying that curiosity would be the 
first emotion and hostility the second ; but, though he 
shared both with the others of the company who craned 
their heads for a glimpse of the newcomer and then 
turned to their neighbours with smiles and whispers, he 
could not deny that Sheridan dominated the room. 

“ Come to see the last of him ? ” he whispered to Joyce 
Cavaly. 

The Otways had been prevented from accepting Lord 
Orpington’s invitation ; so had the Wainwrights ; so 
had Colin and Auriol. Reading one refusal after another 
and recalling a hint that the family, with a single excep¬ 
tion, would not be sorry when Sheridan was at the other 
side of the world, Mallock surmised that the young Cavalys 
had been sent to convince the guest of honour that he 
was not being boycotted. 

“ It’s a fine head,” Joyce answered, as he led her to 
her place. 

“ Los Angeles ? ” Mallock hazarded. “ I feel I’ve seen 
him officiating in a shoe-shine parlour through so many 
first reels ! Washington, D.C., with a flash-back to the 
White House as he sees it in his dreams. The White 
House again in the sixth reel, with our friend as president. 
If he’s really a super-man, he oughtn’t to look like one. 
It’s misleading ; and it upsets my pet theory that square 
jaws and mouths which close like traps and steel-blue 
eyes which turn the man of action into the visionary 
by obligingly changing colour are never found outside 
a film-studio. I may be wrong. I shall be able to tell 
you more in six months’ time.” 

“ Will you only be away six months ? ” 

Mallock bowed ironically : 

I thank you for the happy phrasing.” 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


149 

“ I only meant that six months was a short time for all 
you had to get through." From the worried, furtive 
glances that she threw in Sheridan's direction when she 
fancied herself to be unobserved, Mallock felt sure she was 
wishing that the mission would last for six years and that 
its head would die before the end. “ What’s your candid 
opinion of him, Geoffrey ? ” 

Before answering, Mallock glanced about him to make 
sure that he would not be overheard : 

“ I don’t believe any one can do what he’s done in the 
time without being a rogue, but, then, most of the people 
we know are rogues without the excuse of success. You 
should ask Auriol about him, though : I met him for 
the first time last week.” 

“ I don’t think much of Auriol’s judgement about 
anything," Mrs. Cavaly answered pettishly. 

Mallock smiled in secret triumph at having substan¬ 
tiated Lord Orpington’s vague hint. The Otways were 
thoroughly disgruntled. “ Talk about a bull in a china- 
shop . . he whispered to himself and was delighted 
by the justice of the figure : in physique and in morals, 
Ambrose Sheridan was a magnificent animal, but he was 
an animal. And the Otways, wherever they went, carried 
with them the atmosphere of an old-fashioned china-shop. 
They were exquisitely moulded and fired ; they were 
hard and brittle ; some of them, in a sense, had been 
chipped and mended; all were ranged on high shelves 
out of harm's way. 

The Otways had rid themselves of the intruder for six 
months ; but he now knew his way to the door and they 
were obviously afraid that he would burst it open. 
Perhaps—who could say ?—it would be opened for him 
by Auriol, who had become strangely independent at 
Cambridge. 

It was but a bigger and more varied china-shop, very 
slightly better used to the visits of bulls, that Sheridan 



150 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

had invaded when he blundered into the public life of 
England. The fragile figures had looked down from their 
high shelves in the middle of the nineteenth century 
to see the Jew Disraeli, with his oriental hide and bellow, 
subjugating the shop so artfully that nearly fifty years 
after his death he had become a sacred animal. There 
followed Chamberlain ; later there followed Lloyd-George; 
and now Sheridan was stamping at the door. For the 
rocking and tinkling pieces on the shelves it was a life of 
sustained panic, only made tolerable by the knowledge 
that conditions over the way were far worse. There a 
china-shop had been set down in the middle of a byre. 

“ Curiosity,” Mallock reflected, looking from face to 
face as one pair of eyes after another turned to scrutinize 
the principal guest, “ and then hostility.” 

IV 

By now, halfway through dinner, the curiosity had 
passed ; but the hostility remained, nowhere burning 
more hotly than under the cool and tranquil exterior of 
Lord Orpington’s own family. To Bobbie Selhurst it was 
a mark of degeneracy that his father could not call on 
Sheridan with a crop ; to Lady Margaret and her sisters 
it was an outrage that they should be required to shake 
hands with their father’s self-appointed assassin ; to 
Lady Orpington this was the price that people of a different 
tradition had to pay for mixing themselves up with 
politics nowadays. 

“ It’s curious that the conservative party can’t support 
itself in leaders,” Mallock observed. 

“Almost as curious as that the liberal leaders can’t 
keep themselves in parties,” said Joyce with a pitying 
glance in the direction of Sir Hyde Masterman. 

“ Conservative leaders are one of the chief liberal 
exports ; and the raw material of them is one of the chief 
exports of conservatism. Men like Winston are shipped 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 151 

over raw, worked up into leaders and shipped back. I'm 
afraid you must swallow Sheridan, Joyce ; and, unless you 
can find some one or some combination to resist him, 
I predict that he will swallow you." 

“ I’d swallow him,” answered Joyce, " if I felt I could 
trust him. Can you ? ” 

“ I’ve never tried. It’s a mistake to trust people . . . 
Hullo, Blue Peter's up." 

The speech that followed was a disappointment to 
those who had never heard Lord Orpington before and a 
double disappointment to those who had. On appro¬ 
priate occasions such as a Derby-night dinner, when the 
audience knew what to expect and Lord Orpington gave 
them what they expected, he could speak with bluff 
fluency, interspersing familiar jokes and exploiting a 
vivid presence and personality. Some one, as a rule, 
could be trusted to pipe up quaveringly at the end: 
“ For he's a jolly good fellow " ; some one else, in pro¬ 
posing a vote of thanks, would make affectionate reference 
to “ Blue Peter " ; everybody always looked happily 
flushed ; and Lord Orpington, fingering the lapels of 
the famous blue coat, smoothing the blue ribbon of his 
garter or bending to sniff the blue cornflowers in his 
button-hole, would beam on the company in assured 
knowledge that he was an institution, that his Regency 
clothes and oaths would not be suffered in another man 
and that, when he died, the writers of his obituary would 
say “ We shall not see his like again.” 

Now, as he rose, the audience noted with dismay that 
he was armed with a sheaf of notes. This dinner, he 
explained, was an opportunity for him to wish god-speed 
to a man who had undertaken at great personal incon¬ 
venience a task for which he was pre-eminently fitted 
by his experience, by his prestige in five continents and 
by the fact that the task properly lay and should always 
lie outside the arena of party politics. 



152 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“ My God ! ” Mallock groaned. 

“ w e have ventured,” Lord Orpington proclaimed, 
“ to institute an enquiry. We have asked a man who is 
not frightened by obsolete cries to see whether, in the 
opinion of himself and his colleagues, there is conceivably 
a common trade-interest between two or more parts of 
the empire, whether a glut of labour at home and a short¬ 
age in Australia are different aspects of the same problem * 
whether restricted immigration abroad and limited output 
at home are symptoms of the same defect in vision. The 
nightmare of this government, as of its predecessors, 
has been and still is—unemployment. If we cannot 
remedy that, we shall fall as they fell, but at least we 
shall force the most grudging of our critics to admit that 
we have done all in our power to find a remedy.” 

During the applause that followed, Lord Orpington 
looked again at his notes. With bankruptcy and disorder 
in central and eastern Europe, he gabbled, new markets 
had to be found for British exports if the people of Great 
Britain were even to be fed. It was the paramount 
business of the Colonial Office to explore the possibilities 
of increased trade with the dominions and colonies. 

I say this,” he added, “ to explain why the mission 
is sailing under the flag of the Colonial Office and why it 

has been my privilege to-night to welcome the members 
of the mission here.” 

It was only as Lord Orpington laid down the last page 
of his notes that Mallock realized the speech was over. 
He had expected more copious adulation to assuage 
Sheridan’s natural soreness at being excluded from the 
cabinet ; he had hoped for an incautious phrase, which 
might have drawn a devastating retort. 

In the uneasy interval before Lord Orpington called on 
his chief guest to reply, Mallock glanced to the end of the 
room where Sheridan was leaning back and talking to 
Lady Orpington. He seemed unembarrassed by the 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 153 

prospect of having to make a speech and unmoved by the 
consciousness that he was being watched and appraised. 
At three places' remove Mrs. Sheridan seemed to be 
struggling with the emotions that he might more properly 
have felt: it was her eyes that had flashed in gratitude 
for Lord Orpington’s tepid compliments ; and it was now 
her fingers that played nervously with the stem of her 
wine-glass as she waited for his name to be called. 

Then, as he stood up, a rattle of perfunctory applause 
mounted into genuine enthusiasm. Whatever any one 
might think of his politics or his personality, nobody could 
deny Sheridan a magnificent presence. It seemed as if there 
would be no end to him as he slowly straightened himself; 
and, once more, his simplicity of dress and bearing contras¬ 
ted pleasingly with Lord Orpington’s calculated effects. 

Those who had never heard him before listened eagerly 
for his first words. The voice was in keeping with the 
appearance: unaffected and clear, with a rapid, low 
utterance; well-educated, to Mallock’s critical ear, 
rather than well-bred, but facile and free from any local 
accent. His choice of language was more ambitious than 
his delivery and proportionately less successful; the 
striking phrase held a deadly fascination for him, but the 
phrases that struck him were for the most part those which 
had lost their edge. 

“ The leading-article,” Mallock yawned. " Clear, 
dignified, weighty ; but, alas, alas ! I see no reason why 
it should ever stop ! ” 

Contrary to expectation and despite a fondness for auto¬ 
biography which he betrayed in every paragraph of his in¬ 
cessant writing, Sheridan contented himself with no more 
than a few sentences to explain and justify his presence. 

“ This is not a party occasion ; and I am glad of it. I 
fear, my lord, that I lack the makings of your ‘ good 
party-man’. I have worked so long with my own hands, 

I have employed so many other hands, I have fought so 



154 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

hard for a liberal spirit, I have found so much to conserve 
and so much else to reform radically that the collar of a 
partv-labei strangles me. The condemnation of your 
party-system is to be found in this : whenever your party- 
man is torn from his sham-fights and flung naked against 
reality, he prays that the terrifying issue may be lifted 
above party-politics. The monarchy, our foreign policy, 
imperial defence: he would be shouted down—and 
rightly—who tried to make party-questions of these 
things. The late war obliterated party-divisions ; and I 
assert soberly that our efforts to obliterate the war must 
be as great and as desperate as our efforts to win the war. 
I hope that, when I have completed the enquiry with which 
I have been entrusted, my report will be judged on its 
merits by men and women who are as deeply determined 
to wrest order from our industrial chaos as they were to 
snatch victory from war. I might well despair at the 
outset if I thought that any one would say : ' This is 
something that we've been taught to condemn unheard.’ 
Rather I would have you say : ‘ If this will set our 

industry and commerce on a sound footing, we will support 
it; and, if the devil himself proposed it, we would vote 
for him.’ To some of you I may seem to flatter myself 
by this comparison with the devil. ...” 

Suspecting, from his smile, that this sally was humor¬ 
ously intended, a few members of the audience laughed 
encouragingly. The laughter died away rather miserably as 
one after another realized that Sheridan was alive to their 
general enmity and wished to shew them he was alive to it. 

Mallock glanced round him with a cautious new admir¬ 
ation foi his chief s courage in challenging and defying 
a hostility that simmered, however politely hidden, 
in e\ cry part of the room. Labour would never forgive 
him for sapping the first labour-government in English 
political history ; and, though the ” hands ” that he 
boasted of employing might remember that he was one ot 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 155 

them and had risked private fortune and public position in 
championing them, the leaders of organized labour regarded 
him sourly as a man who told them bluntly that British 
labour was losing ground in the international race and that 
the restriction of output was permanently impoverish ng the 
working-classes. And, though he treated all his opponents 
with the same irritating superiority, the labour leaders 
were less used to Sheridan than the men of other parties. 

" Yes. I should support the devil himself, when he 
convinced me that he could cure unemployment, as Lin¬ 
coln enquired the name of Grant’s whiskey-merchant in 
the hope that his other generals would win Grant’s vic¬ 
tories by drinking to excess of Grant’s whiskey. I should 
not examine his political orthodoxy through party 
spectacles. And this for the adequate reason that party- 
divisions have become meaningless shibboleths. In my 
youth we were fighting about education and licensing, 
the vote of the House of Lords, home rule and Welsh 
disestablishment: controversies that are now more 
dead than medieval bickerings about the beatific vision 
or the double procession. Who remembers them ? Who 
cares ? Their dead shoes have been filled by fuller-blooded 
apparitions : nationalization of industry, a general tariff, 
a capital levy have been paraded in their place. The 
professional politician has waxed so warm over their 
importance that he fails to see they are only apparitions. 
The party-man clings so tenaciously to the party-idea 
that he does not realize how parties are now merged. 
Nevertheless the coming of the first labour-government 
is not yet so remote in time that you have forgotten its 
arrival. In 1923 the reigning conservative ministry 
fought the election on a tariff; labour fought on a capital- 
levy ; liberalism fought on general opposition to a tariff 
and to a capital-levy and to anything that anybody 
cared to suggest. Parties were so evenly divided that 
conservatism threw its tariff overboard ; labour followed 



156 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

with its capital-levy; and, as the older issues were 
buried, there was not one thing except party-spirit to 
keep parties alive. I challenge you to contradict me ! 
The party-man has cut his own throat and ended the 
justification of his own existence. Until new issues are 
born, the bluest tory can vote labour without fearing a 
capital-levy, the reddest labour-man can vote tory 
without fearing a tariff, and both can vote liberal. Party 
divisions are dead; it is only hypocrisy that keeps 
parties alive. And, as I have found it impossible to work 
comfortably with my neck surrounded by a label that 
means nothing, I am naturally suspect to ‘ good party- 
men’. I only hope that this prejudice will not militate 
against a report presented by men of all parties and by 
the official advisers who are constitutionally barred from 
being party-men. This toast has been coupled with my 
name ; but, as I am replying for my mission as a whole, 
I should like to say a word about those others who 
comprise it." . . . 

V 

Only waiting until " the secretary to the commission " 
had been mentioned in adequately flattering terms, 
Mallock allowed his attention to wander. 

He had expected to hear Sheridan either defending the 
zig-zag course which he had followed from one party 
to another or else defying the hostility of all the parties 
and standing before them as a non-party man. Sheridan 
had done more than this : by demonstrating, in a form 
that no one could lightly brush aside, that old party- 
divisions were obliterated, he seemed to be making a 
bid for the support of all. “ The moderate men of all 
parties, united in a national party," Mallock reflected 
scornfully. It was the catch-penny phrase of people 
who were equally ignorant of English history and English 
politics , it was the dream of discredited politicians who, 
failing to capture the party-organization, tried to replace 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 157 

it with an organization of their own. National parties, 
centre parties, coalitions: they marked the artful dodger in 
politics who bought off party opposition by sharing party 
spoil. The dream dated from Bolingbroke ; and it had 
never been realized for more than a few months at a time. 
Was Sheridan following this venerable mirage or was he 
simply preparing a favourable reception for his report ? 

“ Ought we to be going up ? ” whispered Joyce Cavaly. 
“ People seem to be arriving for the reception.” 

Mallock nodded and moved towards the door. Lord Or¬ 
pington and their principal guest had already gone upstairs. 

“ Saviours of society ! ” he chuckled. “ This is a 
comic party, a comic country, a comic world ! ” 

Planting himself by the door of the first drawing-room, 
he watched his new chief take leave of host and guests. 
If there had been gaps in the ranks at dinner, the saviours 
of society had filled them for the reception. Politicians 
of the old school and the new, conservative, labour and 
liberal, newspaper-proprietors and party managers, civil 
servants and trade-union secretaries, publicists and finan¬ 
ciers, divines and artists : the life and strength, the enter¬ 
prise and adroitness, the experience and courage of the 
country seemed to have been gathered under one roof. 

" I wonder,” he murmured to Max, “ whether history 
would be changed if the floor collapsed.” 

And, when the rooms were most thronged with all who 
had come to see him, Sheridan was fostering the Sheridan 
myth by returning home to work. 

“Web . . . Good-night!” said Lord Orpington. “And 
I suppose it's good-bye ? Good-night, Mrs. Sheridan ! 
Good-night, Geoffrey ! I wish you the best of luck and the 

pleasantest of voyages ...” 

“ And the safest of returns ? ” asked Mallock. 

% 

“ That goes without saying.” 

It had gone without saying or thinking, Mallock 
reflected, as he hurried ahead to order the Sheridans car. 



CHAPTER II 


Between the Acts 


" WTioroon the people answered with a shout 
* The trusty one ! no tricksters any more ! * 

How could thev other ? He was in his place / 1 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohcnsticl-Schwangau , 

Saviour of Society . 


i 


W ELL, thank God that's all over ! " exclaimed 
Kenneth Doyle, turning with a final wave of the 
hand to the line of foreshortened faces on either side of 
the Koh-i-nor's accommodation-ladder. 

" Did Blue Peter send you to make sure that they really 
did get off ? ” asked Max. 

“ Well, I was technically saying good-bye on behalf 
of the Colonial Office, but I’ve no doubt Orpington will be 
glad to know that your respected chief didn’t change his 
mind at the last moment. I suppose, at this point, you 
and Rushforth take six months’ holiday, Max ? ” 

“ Don’t you think it ! In Sheridan's own words, I've 
been given 'new and important duties’, which I’m not 
at liberty to divulge. D’you want a lift back to London ? 
I'm taking Tony, if you can bear his company.” 

By changing the subject, still more by alluding to it 
only in the words that Sheridan himself had employed, 
Max hoped to conceal that he was struggling with the 
direst disappointment of his life. The “ job ” so often 
discussed had been defined ten minutes before in his last 
interview with his chief; and, for want of a better title, 

158 



BETWEEN THE ACTS 


159 


Max would in future be styled "director of intelligence". 
The position was highly conlidential and would demand 
his best efforts ; it was one that could only be given to a 
man whom Sheridan trusted as he trusted himself. The 
duties of the director would consist in living with his 
finger on the public pulse, tracing the curves of opinion 
and reporting (in code) whatever in the public life of the 
country could be of value or interest to a man whose very 
existence depended on early and accurate information. 
For a moment Max had been deeply impressed. Later, 
when he found that his salary was to remain unchanged 
and that the old duty of reading his employer’s press- 
cuttings was only to be supplemented with a weekly 
letter of general gossip, it occurred to him that Sheridan 
was using pretentious language about an arrangement 
which another man might have described as " making work 
for my secretary to keep him out of mischief while I'm away." 

" Dunno what Auriol will think about it,” Max reflected. 
" Dunno what I ought to think about it myself. If I’m 
not careful, I shall become like Tony." 

As a free liver, confronted with an irreclaimable 
drunkard, might stop short in horror at prevision of his 
own ultimate degradation, Max drew back in sudden fear 
from his unsuspecting companion. At no time had Tony 
Rushforth commanded his respect, but until this moment 
Max had never imagined that Doyle or any one would 
couple them as the victims of their own too slack wills 
or of Sheridan’s too ready good-nature. And yet there 
were disturbing points of similarity ! In early youth 
Tony had formed an expectation of inheriting a fortune 
from his father ; with the expectation he had formed 
an unconscious resolution never to toil or spin while 
others could be found to toil or spin for him ("The 
guv'nor never told me I should have to fend for myself," 
Max grumbled). Tony's inheritance had dwindled to a 
houseful of furniture and a number of anecdotes beginning : 



160 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“ I remember the old duke saying to my mother once ‘ My 
dear Lady Rushforth . . ” (“ The guv’nor’s always 

talkin' of sellin’ his horses to pay the interest on his 
mortgages "). As neither of these assets could be readily 
negotiated at the bar, Laura Sheridan contrived that her 
feckless younger brother should be made secretary of a 
company formed to hold the Sheridan shares in under¬ 
takings with which Sheridan himself did not care to be 
publicly associated (“Auriol wangled this job for me,” 
said Max). 

“ I rather envy you,” Kenneth Doyle yawned ; and 
Max felt that the parallel had been disastrously completed. 

Many people must be envious of Tony. The summer 
saw him at Deauville, the winter at St. Jean-de-Luz : 
happy at all times and in all places, balancing the known 
advantages of being a courted bachelor against the chance 
of scaling greater heights by an imposing marriage. Few 
of the well-connected infants who had been helped into 
the world by Sir Arthur escaped being helped through 
the social world by his son. For an anguished moment 
Tony's comfort had, indeed, been threatened by a war 
in which he envisaged himself, for a season of brief 
delirium, as a soldier, sweating, suffering and perhaps 
being killed ; even before he could invoke his potent 
brother-in-law's aid, however, the nightmare was ended by 
the army doctors. On« e safely rejected, Tony chafed decor¬ 
ously under his inability to serve, lamenting more loudly 
as each re-examination passed him by. As a non-comba¬ 
tant, he attained the rank of major, with the usual decora¬ 
tions ; and, with every day that pressed the war deeper 
into past history, his share in it became more significant. 

Max jerked himself upright. For several days the 
Koh-i-nor would be in wireless communication with 
England ; he had been stampeded into accepting Sheri¬ 
dan's proposal, but it was not too late for him to recon¬ 
sider it. Auriol should decide. 


BETWEEN THE ACTS 161 


“ I’m droppin' Tony here,” Max told Kenneth Doyle, 
as the car turned from the embankment into the Temple. 


“ Where d'you want to be parked ? " 

“The Colonial Office, if it’s not out of your way. 
Where are you going ? ” 

“ I promised to let Mrs. Sheridan know how things had 


gone off.” 

Doyle waited till Tony Rushforth had got out and then 
turned to Max with a whimsical smile. 

“ Peter Orpington told me that Sheridan was getting 
himself into rather a bad mess,” he began. “ Have you 
heard anything ? He didn’t tell me the woman s name, 
but I gather he’s taking six months abroad while things 


blow over.” 

“ News to me,” Max answered. “ I should never be 
surprised . . .” Remembering opportunely that the 
Doyles were believed to be heading for the divorce-court, 
he checked on the brink of becoming censorious. It 


would explain why he was so ready to go.” 

“ That’s what I felt. It’s the only reason that will hold 
water. He can’t expect to do himself any good. However, 
that's his funeral. I must plead guilty to a certain feeling 
of relief when we said good-bye. ...” 


II 

“ A certain feeling of relief ” was the phrase that 
Sheridan’s “ director of intelligence ” was fain to use 
after a week spent with his ear to the ground, his finger 
on the public pulse and his eye on the undulation of 
opinion. Friends and enemies, devotees and sceptics 
made common cause in protesting that no one topic, 
were it the tomb of Tutankhamen or the state of unem¬ 
ployment, should occupy more than a fixed number of 
columns for a fixed number of days. In the unchanging 
cycle of popular interest the season had come again for 
discussing whether insanity should be a defence against 

L 



162 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


an indictment for murder and whether a readily intelli¬ 
gible annoyance in the mind of an injured husband 
constituted insanity. If, in six months’ time, Mr. Sheridan 
reported that he had a cure for all human ills, the public 
would give him a patient hearing, but the public required 
six months’ rest after its late excitement and enthusiasm. 

" Sheridan didn’t leave a moment too soon," Lord 
Otway told Max, when they met by accident in the City. 
"Another week ; and his prestige would have evaporated. 
As it is . . . Faith-healing, Max, is a very interesting 
process when you see it applied to a mass of dissimilar 
people. Since your respected chief undertook to cure us, 
there’s been an extraordinary change of temper in the 
City. It began on the stock exchange : business suddenly 
became brisker. Then it spread to the issue-houses : a 
proposition that couldn’t be entertained yesterday is being 
considered hopefully to-day. The banks followed ; then 
came the merchants ; then the retailers. The manu¬ 
facturers will be the next. Every one seems to have made 
up his mind that a boom is coming ; the papers will 
repeat it ; and the boom will come. We’re curing our¬ 
selves." 

“ How long will it take,” Max asked, " before unem¬ 
ployment begins to fall ? " 

Something must indeed be happening when Lord 
Otway broke his habitual silence to express an opinion ! 

It s falling already. The moment people heard the 
word boom , they decided to risk taking on a few more 
men, working longer time, accumulating stocks against 
the orders that would come. Their competitors did the 
same ; they didn t want to be left out when the good time 
came. Case in point ! " he confided. " I wanted two 
more gardeners at Lokshott, where I’ve deliberately 
been keeping things rather short. I felt I was justified, 
if we were going to have a good year at last. Was there a 
gardener to be found within a radius of twenty miles ? 



BETWEEN THE ACTS 163 

My neighbours too felt justified in spreading themselves 
a bit.” 

“ But you don’t lay all this at my chief’s door ? ” 

“ It’s a condition of our credit system. We five and 
trade on credit, which is another word for faith: if we 
believe we're sick, we become sick; if we believe we’re 
well, we become well. Sometimes, I confess, I’m rather 
frightened : I feel that we’re governed by an autocrat 
and the autocrat a neurotic woman. Credit . . . It's 
the sum-total of all our foresight, experience and judge¬ 
ment ; and of our prejudices, follies, fears. You never 
know the mood you’ll find her in. There’d be a panic 
if you put a communist at the Exchequer ; and there’ll 
be a boom as the result of your chief’s mission.” 

“ May I quote you as saying that ? ” 

“ If you think my opinion’s more valuable by a farthing 
than that of the first hawker in the street,” laughed 
Lord Otway. 

Max clutched eagerly at this single ear of enthusiasm 
in a harvest of indifference and considered the phrasing 
of his first report. He was on his way to visit Mrs. Sheridan 
and did not relish conveying to her, however diplomati¬ 
cally, that every one he met was sick and tired of her 
husband’s name. Truth to tell, though they were old 
friends, he did not relish these visits. From the day 
when he was considered old enough to profit by mature 
advice, he had been taught by Sir Mark that a man s 
relations with his wife were unintelligible to other men 
and should be accepted when they could not be ignored. 
The harder such advice might be to follow, the more 
urgent was the need to follow it. So primed, Max always 
—in his own phrase—" ran in a hood ” when he met 
Laura Sheridan, though any one who had worked in the 
same room with Evelyn Colthurst could lay long odds 
who paid for her clothes. He could easily have supplied, 
from guess-work, a name for the blank place which 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


164 

Kenneth Doyle had left in his story of a threatened 
scandal, but it was not the business of Sheridan’s “ direc¬ 
tor of intelligence ” to enquire into Sheridan’s relations 
with his personal secretary. 

“ I’m not paid to know things before I’m told," Max 
decided as he rang the bell. 

Mrs. Sheridan was at home—he could not recall 
her having ever been out to him—she was disengaged ; 
and she would be delighted to see him if he would excuse 
a muddle. 

Coming into the drawing-room with a vague misgiving 
that she would expect him to produce a cable, he found 
her half-buried in pattern-books, planning ambitious 
schemes of decoration. 

“ But you must promise not to say a word about H 
in your letters ! " she begged. “ I want it to be a surprise. 
For one reason or another we’ve drifted on, year after year, 
talking as much as you like, but never doing anything. . . . 
I felt this was the opportunity for a big effort. When 
he comes back, he won't know it's the same house." 

Max carried one of the pattern-books to a window and 
pretended to interest himself in her colour-scheme. 
Laura was in high spirits ; and her eagerness made her 
seem many years younger. It was strange that she should 
be better in health, steadier in nerves—and therefore a 
gayer companion and a more attractive woman—the 
moment she was separated from the man she wanted to 
attract. Sheridan frightened and humiliated her ; she 
became over-anxious to please ; and this provoked him 
to brutality and fresh humiliations. They would get on 
admirably, Max decided, if they never met; but, almost 
before Sheridan had sailed, she was making plans for his 
return, telling herself that this time, this time everything 
was going to be different. 

" You’ve chosen some jolly things," said Max, “ but I 
like the house as it is." 



BETWEEN THE ACTS 165 

“ So do I, but I don’t think Ambrose . . 

It was idle to tell her that Ambrose could not be coaxed 
from indifference by a display of fresh paint or of new 
dresses. 

“ I came to see if you had any message. I'm sendin’ 
him a report on things in general. The last thing he said 
was that I was to tell him how you were.” 

Laura's eyes brightened at the jejune message. In 
some phase of their life Ambrose had really cared to know 
how she was ; and it was inconceivable to her now that 
he had only been keeping up appearances before a secre¬ 
tary ! 

“ Stay and have some dinner with me,” she begged ; 
and Max glimpsed the radiant face of a girl newly in love 
and burning to tell him her secret, a girl of beauty and 
passion, who had only loved one man. 

“Almost any other evenin' ! ” he begged. “ To-night 
I’m dinin’ With the Otways.” 

“ Oh, are they back ? ” 

“ I don’t think they went abroad after all. I ran across 
Otway in the City this afternoon ; and yesterday I 
had a line from Auriol, callin’ for all the latest news. 
If I may have the letters . . .” 

“They’re in the work-room. You’re communicating 
by cable, I suppose ? If I write ...” 

“ You’ll meet him on the way back. If it’s anything 
urgent, I’ll code it for you.” 

“ Oh, thanks! There's no hurry. Come and see me 
before you go.” 

Ill 

While Max worked his way through the day's letters, 
Mrs. Sheridan tried to finish the one on which she had been 
intermittently engaged ever since her husband sailed. 

“ You pride yourself on looking facts in the face,” she 
wrote, “ but believe me you are not facing facts if you think 



i66 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


people will tolerate what you propose. If you are forgiven 
the divorce, you would not be forgiven the remarriage: 
everybody would see that the one was a stepping-stone to 
the other. Miss Otway's position, even more her age . . .” 

It was impossible to go on for the present. The name of 
Auriol Otway, even when Laura herself employed it, 
broke down her self-control; though she had no personal 
antipathy to the unhappy girl, her tongue tripped and 
her hands trembled whenever she thought of her. For¬ 
tunately, Max had noticed nothing; but, then, Max 
seemed to be one of the shrewd, observant people who 
never saw what lay beneath their noses ; or else he was 
of those who thought within fixed dimensions. Only 
in a world of four dimensions could he imagine that a 
girl of Auriol’s upbringing might become infatuated with 
a married man twice her age or that such a man might 
jeopardize his career for a schoolgirl. There were moments 
when Laura wanted to cry “ Wake up ! It’s all a horrible 
dream! ” but she could never persuade herself that she 
or Ambrose had been dreaming when he declared his 
intentions in the presence of Tony and Mr. Livingstone. 
“Not a thing one can argue about ... I want a copy 
of this letter. . . . Face the position frankly ... I 
shan’t need you again to-day, Miss Colthurst. . . . Six 
months . . . An honest trial: no communication of 
any kind. Otway’s stipulation. The least one could do ... 
If every one’s of the same mind in six months’ time . . ." 
And then the ghastly, glib sophistry about a marriage 
that had in fact come to an end ten years before ! They 
were wide-awake as they listened, even if he had somehow 
paralysed their wills. She was not dreaming when she 
said that she understood. The girl, presumably, was not 
dreaming when she promised to come to him if he still 
wanted her. 

When her hand was steady, Laura took up her pen 
again : 



BETWEEN THE ACTS 


167 

“ I am trying to keep all personal feelings on one side. 
You cannot realize the results of what you contemplate ; 
and I feel that justifies me in opposing your wishes.” 

Dare she say that she refused to carry out his wishes ? 
At one point in that hideous debate Livingstone had said : 
“ Before we go any farther, I should like to hear Mrs. 
Sheridan’s views. In the ultimate analysis she controls 
the situation.” At another point her brother had plucked 
up courage to say : “ No one can compel her to divorce 
you.” Ambrose, without arrogance, without menace, 
had been content to answer : “ When the time comes, 
if we’re still of the same mind, I don’t think she will want 
to stand in my way.” The words were deliberately 
indefinite. He might, when “ the time ” came, appeal 
to her good-nature ; he might explode into a threat that, 
unless he got his way, he would abandon his life’s work ; 
he might torture her with his tongue ; or, as once before, 
he might starve her. Desperately though she tried to 
forget it, Laura would alwayb remember her one attempted 
revolt, when Ambrose dictated a succession of .etters in 
which she was made to withdraw her patronage . nd her 
subscriptions from her various char.ties. She had capitu¬ 
lated after the third letter. 

“ I don't think she will want to stand in my way. She 
dared not refuse him when the time came ; and in the 
ultimate analysis the situation was controlled, through 
her, by Ambrose. Perhaps Miss Otway—she shivered 
involuntarily at the name of this girl with the devilish 
power over her husband—perhaps Miss Otway would 
change her mind in six months ; perhaps her parents 
would coerce her. In six months Ambrose himself might 
have come to his senses. If net, the tragedy must be 
played out. When the time came, Laura could not stand 
in the way, if she wished ; and only those who had done 
what she feared to do were entitled to call her a coward. 

Locking the unfinished letter in a drawer, she went down 



i68 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


to the work-room and was unreasonably angered to find 
Max sitting in her husband’s chair. He stood up, as she 
came in ; and she contrived to slip between him and 
the chair, so that he had to draw up another. How petty 
she would seem to him, how sentimental to Ambrose, 
if they knew that the work-room and dressing-room 
were kept as he had left them and that sometimes she 
crept in by night and talked as though he were there ! 

“ I shan’t write by this mail," she told Max. “ There's 
so little to say in a week. And I've been so busy about 
the house . . ." 

“ You’re lookin’ tired, Laura,” he interrupted. 

"Am I ? I’m feeling rather forlorn," she admitted 
frankly. " This is the first time my husband has ever been 
away without me for more than about a week. When 
will you come and keep me company, Max ? " 

"Any night after this. I want to have along talk with 
you. The chief’s very keen to know from day to day w'hat 
people are sayin’ about the mission. People talk to you, 
I make no doubt . . 

"And I to them ! " cried Laura. Max saw with sur¬ 
prise that her lassitude had dropped from her and that 
her sombre eyes were alight with the passion of a zealot. 
" Do you w'ant what the reporters call a ‘ message ’ ? " 
she laughed. " Tell him that, though he’s only been gone 
a week, the boom is beginning ! It doesn’t matter now 
whether Lord Orpington set a trap, whether Ambrose 
walked into it. He’s restored people’s confidence in them¬ 
selves. If they want a leader, he’ll lead them. There’s 
been nothing like it since the first weeks of the war, when 
Lord Kitchener took charge and the whole country 
breathed freely again." 

Max, who had been a schoolboy wiien w : ar broke out, 
tried to recall the Kitchener myth before it began to 
crumble. 

" I hope he don’t crash like poor old K.," he muttered. 



BETWEEN THE ACTS 169 

“ He won’t! He understands the people, which Lord K. 
never did, however much the people idolized him. When 
will people begin to see that your modem leader is a 
new creation ? The cabinet and the House and the 
Albert Hall go for nothing nowadays. The future lies 
with the man who understands publicity and propaganda : 
newspapers, films, broadcasting. That's why Ambrose 
must win against men who despise the press and think it 
vulgar to advertise. That's why the old school hates him. 
But that's why the ‘mob’, as the old school calls it, 
believes in him and acts on its belief." 

Max thought over her answer and nodded slowly. He 
had not realized that she was interested in politics. When 
she talked of public affairs, he had always imagined that 
she was echoing her husband, but her tone now made him 
wonder whether her husband did not sometimes echo 
her. 

“ You think Peter Orpington will be hoist with his own 
petard or whatever the gadget’s called ? ” he asked. 
“ That means the cabinet for your husband.” 

“ Unless something unexpected happens. The govern¬ 
ment might fall. Ambrose might say or do something . . . 
He’s impetuous, you know ; and, though Mr. Livingstone 
or I can usually pull him up, there’s no one to check him 
now. But I shall make you late for your dinner if I go on 
talking.” 

When Max had taken his leave, Laura went back to the 
work-room and set her husband’s chair in its accustomed 
place. It was a wooden arm-chair, with a loose leather 
cushion. When or where he had bought it she could not 
recall, but for half-a-dozen years before they settled in 
London it had accompanied them in their wanderings. 
And in the days when Ambrose had to make money he 
had sat in it, after the day’s work was done, bombarding 
her with questions. In those days, before he withdrew 
his confidence from her, she was made to represent 



170 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

average opinion : he would set a dozen newspapers before 
her and ask which she liked best, and why, and what was 
amiss with the others. “ If you had five pounds a year to 
throw away, how would you spend it ? ” he was fond 
of enquiring. And his first fortune had been drawn from 
the pockets of those who led dull lives and had five or 
three pounds a year to spend in anodynes. To them he 
sold cheap cameras and gramophones, then sewing- 
machines, bicycles and furniture for which they paid by 
instalments. “ What kind of magazine would you like 
best,” he had asked her, ” if you could only afford one ? ... 
I’m tired after a day at the office ; you’re tired after doing 
the house and putting the children to bed.” . . . 

Laura winced and tried to think of the other problems 
he had flung at her. Fountain-pens ? Safety-razors ? 
Her mind came back obstinately to the hypothetical 
children she was supposed to have put to bed. When she 
married Ambrose, there was no question of her having 
a family. Later, as they hurried about the world, selling 
wherever they found a scarcity and buying wherever 
there was a glut, they had to travel alone and light. 
When they settled in England, it would be time enough, 
Ambrose told her ; but they found, when at last they 
settled in England, that he had made his first great 
miscalculation. And from the moment that she failed him 
he had begun to lose interest in her. 

Hurrying to her room, Laura began to dress for dinner. 
Ambrose had never reproached her ; but once, in taking 
stock, he had wondered aloud why he troubled to go on 
making money when they already had more than they 
needed for just the two of them. Once, when a party whip 
had hinted at the attractions of a baronetcy, Ambrose 
had asked impatiently what good a baronetcy was to him. 
Had there been children, he would not have wanted to 
leave her. Had there been children, she could have parted 
from him more easily. Had there been children, she would 



BETWEEN THE ACTS 171 

not have so irrevocably lavished on him the devotion 
that should have been theirs. 

IV 

On his way to Manchester Square, Max calculated 
that he had not dined with the Otways since the night 
of Auriol's birthday-party. 

Had he been invited, he could not have gone till the 
mission was safely aboard ; but something in Auriol’s 
manner at their last meeting warned him that they would 
be wise to have a rest from each other. She was becoming 
rather too much of a politician and rather too intolerant 
of any one who did not share her latest passion. Max 
wished he could bring her back to her mood of the days 
before Cambridge set up the fancy that she had a vocation 
to reform the world. Perhaps she would be more human 
now that Sheridan was no longer at hand to flatter her. 
“ Relief ? ” Max asked himself. Yes, he must range 
himself with those who breathed more easily now that 
they had seen the last of Sheridan for six months. 

He was shewn into Auriol’s sitting-room and greeted 
with an apology for the smallness of the party. 

“ Only you and me, Max," she explained. “ I thought 
you might like to take me on to Bellamy s afterwards. 

“ I’d love to. Never thought I should have you all to 
myself. What happened to the Italian tour ? 

“ It didn’t come off. For one reason or another, the 
family had been getting on my nerves and I’d been getting 
on the nerves of the family. It happens like that sometimes. 
Mummie thought it would be a good thing if I had a change, 
and, when Italy was suggested, I jumped at it. Then I saw 
that it would only be a change from bad to worse. I 
should still be surrounded by family, still getting on every 
one’s nerves, with all the added horrors of foreign trains 
and hotels. So I cried off and sent the family without me." 

“ And you’re all alone ? " 



172 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


Auriol nodded and turned away to tidy her writing- 
table : 

“All alone and rather out of love with life. Horribly, 
horribly lonely, to begin with . . 

“Well, my dear, we can soon cure that! ” 

She bent over his chair and kissed his cheek : 

“ Dear old Max ! Will you adopt me till the family 
comes back ? Take me racing ! Ask me to stay with your 
adorable father at Newmarket! He always makes such a 
delightful fuss of me ; and I want some one to make a 
fuss of me.” 

“ I’ll send him a wire to-morrow. You promise you 
won’t throw me over for him, Auriol ? ’’ 

“ If I married either of you, I should certainly choose 
Sir Mark ; partly because I’m very fond of him and partly 
to shew what a good step-mother I should make for you. 
As a matter of fact, I’m not going to marry either of you. 
It’s the Guineas meeting, isn’t it, Max ? D’you really 
think he 11 have room for me ? If I don’t have a change of 
ideas, I really think we shall have a family quarrel.” 

“ But what’s the row ? ” 

Auriol raked her hair impatiently and seated herself 
on the arm of his chair: 

Oh, it s too long a story to tell you now. I suppose 
it’s because I’ve grown up since the war and all their ideas 


are pre-war, very faintly tinged by the war. Mother 
never says the same thing two minutes running, so you're 
bound to find her on your side occasionally . . 

“ Like standin' still when you’re tight and waitin’ to 
catch the house next time round.” 


Ihe rest of them just look on life from a different 
angle. I don t mind that. I'd let them go their way if 
they d let me go mine, but they won’t. And so we seem 
to wrangle about everything. Which I hate. However . . . 
Tell me what you’ve been doing with yourself. I suppose 
you’ve downed tools till Mr. Sheridan comes back ? ” 



BETWEEN THE ACTS 


173 


" Don't you think it! ” 

He described his interviews with Mrs. Sheridan and 
Lord Orpington, not sorry of the opportunity to shew 
that his duties extended beyond filing letters and answering 
the telephone, even though native honesty kept him 
from magnifying the dignity or a “ director of intelli¬ 
gence”. In his new part, however, he could give Auriol 
political gossip that was fresh to her and describe the 
departure of the mission as an eye-witness. When he 
asked whether he should cling to his new position, she 
convinced him that he could not leave Mr. Sheridan 
until a successor had been appointed. 

At ten o’clock, when he reminded her that they were to 
dance at Bellamy's, he found that she had changed her 
mind. 

“ It's more fun here,” she decided, curling herself on a 
cushion at his feet. “ You're being quite interesting and 
intelligent. Tell me your own opinion, Max, not what 
other people say. About Mr. Sheridan, I mean.” 

“ I’ll tell you what I’m going to tell him. In one word. 
Relief. The politicians of every shade are relieved that 
he’s gone. And not only the politicians. His wife. His 
humble secretary. He's a man you want a holiday from. 
I don’t know how well you know him ...” 

“ I feel relieved, too,” Auriol answered thoughtfully. 
” He exhausts me.” 

" Relief. I shah tell him that and leave him to make 
what he likes of it,” Max continued. “ He’ll take it as a 
tremendous compliment. He'll think they’re afraid of 
him. He won't see that people like Standish and 
Orpington and your father are glad to be rid of him 
because they distrust him.” 

By defending him, Auriol would only check the flow of 
Max’s candour. She contented herself with saying : 

“ I don’t know why they should.” 

“ Instinct. And therefore you can’t argue with it. 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


174 

The other night at the Orpingtons’ he was bindin’ spells. 
The speech was nothing remarkable, but I talked to about 
fifty people afterwards and he had 'em cold. He could do 
what he liked, but they still didn't trust him. And that's 
what’s goin’ to bring him down, if anything does. He's 
bin lookin’ a bit tucked up lately. If people don't believe 
in you, there comes a time when you don’t believe in 
yourself. You want inspirin’ . . ." 

“And that's just the one thing . . Auriol began. 
“ Does he ever confide in you, Max ? ” 

“ I don’t think he confides in any one, unless it’s 
Livingstone. When you’ve climbed as high as that, you're 
pretty much by yourself.” 

“ And Mrs. Sheridan . . .” 

“ Well, I respect her judgement—and so does he, by the 
way—but I can’t see her inspirin’ anybody. All the drivin’- 
force has to come from him. I don’t know how long he 
can keep it up . . 

V 

He lapsed into silence and began to stroke Auriol’s head. 

“ You believe in him, don’t you ? ” she asked. 

“ Yes. If he could get people’s confidence as Ll.-G. 
got it in the war . . . The confidence of his colleagues, 
I mean. And if he had some one always urgin’ him on ...” 

“ Mrs. Sheridan . . 

" He’s worn Laura out. Well, Aurioi, I must be goin'. 
I’ll fix things about Newmarket. . .” 

“ You mustn’t go till you've seen my new picture.” 

She jumped up and unpacked the black-and-white 
original of the cartoon in which Ambrose Sheridan was 
depicted in conversation with the shade of Napoleon. 

They tried to get rid of me too ’," Max read. 

“ Mr. Sheridan sent me that as a parting present,” 
she explained. “ If I could spare it, I’d send it back as 
the best comment on the mission.” 


BETWEEN THE ACTS 175 

“ You think he's cornin’ back to gobble ’em all up ? 
Well, he'll have a dam’ good shot. Thank the Lord he 
won’t be back for six months ; I may be able to see some¬ 
thin’ of you. Kiss me good-night, Auriol, and coug 
yourself that you’re goin' to enjoy Newmarket. I don’t 
like to see you lookin’ so long in the face and sayin' 
that every one gets on your nerves . . .” 

Auriol jumped up and threw her arms round his 
neck : 

“ I didn't say every one. I except you, expressly. 
You’re a darling, Max ; I always feel comfortable with 
you and I should always come to you in trouble. You can 
make as much fuss of me as you like : I need it. Good¬ 
night, my dear ! Bless you ! ” 

“ Good-night! I say ! Auriol ! ‘ Director of intelli¬ 
gence ' sounds no end of a fine thing, especially if you 
suspect you’re half-witted. Don’t be carried away by the 
name, though. It’s the same old job and the same old 
screw. Only fair to tell you. And I hope it’s not ^dis¬ 
appointment.” 

“ My dear, I’m only disappointed if you are.” 

“ Well, truth to tell, I am. I was hopin' for somethin’ 
better, so that we could fix things up.” 

“ But, Max . . .” 

" All right ! You needn’t say it! I shan’t whisper a 
word till I’ve got something to offer. I’m sorry, Auriol. 
I’m doin’ my best. I’m tryin’ to be patient.” 

“ It would really be better if you admitted it was 
hopeless.” 

“ But that’s just what I won’t do ! ” 



CHAPTER III 


“ Pulp ” 

" . . . The seed o’ the apple-tree 
Brings forth another tree which bears a crab : 

'Tis the great gardener grafts the excellence 
On wildings where he will.” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 


I 


B EFORE she went to bed, Auriol wrote to tell her 
mother of the invitation to Newmarket. 

Ever since the Otways had left for Rome, she had been 
looking for an excuse to establish communications 
without compromising her dignity ; and more than once, 
drifting solitarily from one empty room to another, she 
had been tempted to let her dignity take care of itself. 
Nothing—or at least almost nothing—was worth this 
atmosphere of pained surprise. And yet, if she said, 
“ Oh, do for goodness' sake let’s all be friends again! " 
Colin or Imogen would ask, with a magisterial lift of their 
eyebrows if not in words, whether this meant that she 
had come to her senses about Sheridan. Some one’s mutter 
would be overheard ; some one else, in that inquisitive 
party at the embassy, would gasp: “ Not Ambrose 

Sheridan ? And Auriol ? Oh, my Lord . . . / ” 

And then, Auriol knew herself well enough to admit 
candidly, she would do something terrible out of sheer 
contrariety. Her mother sometimes told her that she was 
a changeling ; and there were times when Auriol herself 
could detect no single characteristic that she held in 

176 



" PULP ” 


177 


common with her nearest blood-relations. “ What ? 
Did the hand, then, of the Potter shake ? ” she whispered. 
On the night of her birthday it was Colin, buttoning the 
family honour to his breast, who drove her farther than 
she had ever intended to go. To be sure, no one was 
committed even now : “if we’re both of the same mind 
in six months’ time ” was the condition which Ambrose 
laid down and she intended to think things over very 
carefully in the next six months. At the end she hoped 
to be calm, balanced and wise ; but, if people assailed 
Ambrose behind his back, personally or politically, she 
would defend him to the last drop of her blood. 

If people spied and whispered and worried and fussed ... 

II 

“ Max has been dining . she began, spontaneously 
abrupt, then realized that every word must be written 
as thoughtfully as it would be read. Max’s very name 
was enough to make some one say : “ Now, if she’d 
marry him . . some one else remember that they had 
once pretended to be engaged. 

“ Feeling rather tired of my own company," she began 
again, less spontaneously, “ I invited Max to dine . . 

That would not do, either. If she confessed that she 
was lonely, some one would say : 11 We oughtn’t to have 
left her by herself," some one else would mutter that she 
really was taking this Sheridan business to heart. 

Anticipating the telegram which Sir Mark would send 
her next day, she announced that she was going to stay 
with the Hendrys the following week. That pushed Max 
aside to make way for his father, who had in fact invited 
her a dozen times. Between the lines of such a statement 
there was surely nothing for these dear, troubled eyes to 
read ? And vet there was ! Max dining : then the 
Sheridan peril could not be so deadly after all, or she 
would not send for Max the moment she felt lonely. 

M 



178 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

Sir Mark inviting her to Newmarket: plainly a hint 
that, if she and Max ever renewed their shadowy engage- 
nent, there would be no objection on the Hendry side. 
The invitation accepted ; an indisputable proof that poor, 
silly little Auriol had swung back in violent reaction ! 
She was putting Max through his paces, refreshing her 
memories of Sir Mark and making the acquaintance of 
Conway House : a clear “ case ” ! They would be 
aggrieved when they came back from Rome to find 
that she was not already engaged. 

For a time Auriol abandoned the idea of writing, but 
some interpretation more fantastic still would be applied 
to her visit if they heard of it independently. She could 
imagine the scene in the embassy when some one reported 
that she had been to Newmarket without telling her 
parents. “ Any news of Auriol ? Ah, then I can give you 
some! She’s been staying with old Mark Hendry for the 
Guineas meeting. I’ve just had a letter from my boy, who 
saw her there . . 

Auriol decided that she must write ; but, before making 
another attempt, she paused to consider what Sir Mark 
and Max would think of her impetuous self-invitation. 
How much did Max understand ? She had told him 
a score of times, that night included, that she could 
never marry him. If he decided that she was worth 
keeping as a friend, they could be friends without mis¬ 
understanding. 

“ I have never been to Newmarket,” she wrote in the 
desperation of impatience and exhaustion. “ I’m going 
next week. Sir Mark and Max have invited me again 
and again, but I’ve never been able to manage it before. 
This is my only news, so you must make up by telling me 
all yours. I hope you're enjoying yourselves, but I should 
like to think you were missing me a little. I'm looking 
forward very much to seeing you again ; and, to touch 
for one moment on a painful subject, I think there’s 



“PULP” 


179 

just one thing we’d better not discuss. I’m not going to 
make you unhappy and I’m not going to make myself 
unhappy, if I can possibly avoid it. There can't be any 
convulsions for six months ; and in that time I shall 
consider very carefully what my feelings really are. At 
present I can’t tell you. Of course, I admire A. tremen¬ 
dously ; I believe i?i him ; and I’m very fond of him. 
I’ll go farther and say I think he’s the one man who can 
clear up the mess left by the war (a thing that the tinkerers 
have never attempted !) ; and I think, in all modesty, 
that I have the power of helping him. That's all; and 
I know all the arguments against what we’ve talked of 
doing. It’s a straight issue ; and I should be able to make 
a sensible decision one way or the other. But we must all 
be sensible, all keep our heads. When people say that A.’s 
gutter-bred or unreliable or old enough to be my father, 
I lose my judgement and see him simply as a genius, a man 
head and shoulders above all the other men I’ve ever met, 
my man. Don’t let’s mention this subject for six months.” 

Next day a telegram of urgent welcome arrived from 
Sir Mark ; and at the beginning of the following week 
Max motored her to Suffolk. On the way down she was 
warned not to expect more than a bachelor party and 
rough comfort; and Auriol, who had only raced hitherto 
from house-parties in the neighbourhood of Ascot and 
Goodwood, observed a subtile change in the manner of 
her escort as they drew near to Conway House. This, 
she discovered in a sense that she had not realized before, 
was Max's home. Of the thin-legged, keen-faced throng 
in the High Street fully half waved to him as he drove 
by ; he pointed out celebrities and bewildered her with 
anecdotes of owners and trainers whose names she only 
knew from the papers ; he promised or threatened that 
she should be taken to see his father’s horses working 
next day on the Heath ; and he recited pedigrees till 
she silenced him by saying that he was inventing them. 



i8o SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“ Does anybody here ever talk of anything except 
horses ? ” she enquired with misgiving. 

“ Not much. You wouldn’t live in Newmarket unless 
you were fairly keen.” 

“ And you, I suppose . . . ? ” 

Max laughed with secret happiness : 

“ If I had my way, I’d do nothin’ else. Four or five 
brood-mares ; nominations to the best sires of the year ; 
and then begin. Breedin’, trainin’. If I didn’t happen 
to turn the scale at twelve-six when I'm down to skin 
and bone, I’d ride too. Well, I don’t suppose I shall ever 
have horses of my own, so the next best thing is to manage 
some one else’s. I bin tryin’ to interest Sheridan. God 
knows, he can afford it ! George Lambton ! There’s 
a man I envy ! If I had a stable of horses like his . . . 
It’s the perfect life. It’s the only life. Here we are ! 
You observe my poor old father has the house decorated 
throughout in his racin’-colours : green eiderdowns and 
white pillows : cointreau and creme-de-menthe for break¬ 
fast. You must pretend to take it seriously for his sake, 
Auriol. I have what the medicos call my ‘ lucid intervals', 
but my poor old father ... No ! ” 

III 

Sir Mark was awaiting them in the hall, behind a table 
loaded with decanters. 

Side by side with Max, well-fed and regularly exercised, 
shrewd and almost illiterate, hospitable and awkward, 
he was more like a friendly elder brother than a father. 
The house, at first sight, was one-third tavern, one-third 
office and one-third undergraduate diggings. At some 
period before Auriol came to know the family, there had 
existed a Lady Hendry, but she had died without leaving 
a mark on her husband, her son or a house that could 
never have been hers. The billiard-room, which was 
used for every purpose but billiards, the bedrooms, 



“ PULP" 


181 

which were strictly and literally rooms for beds and 
with beds, never seemed to have known the beautifying 
touch of a woman's hand. Auriol looked about her and 
drew a deep breath : this was going to be one of the 
hardest weeks she had known. 

Then her sense of humour came to her rescue. She 
tried to imagine the confidential report which she would 
have written to her mother if in fact she had come to be 
shewn off to Sir Mark and to have Conway House shewn 
off to her. “ Poisonous ” rose to her lips as the obvious 
epithet for her surroundings ; and she blushed guiltily 
when Max, meeting her at the foot of the stairs and 
pushing a whiskey-and-soda at her as though nobody 
was allowed to pass through the hall without a whiskey- 
and-soda, murmured: 

“ Poisonous sort of place, isn't it ? " 

“ It’s a beautifully airy bedroom you’ve given me,” 
she answered. 

“ I hope the wall-paper won’t keep you awake,” said 
Sir Mark. “ Fact of the matter is, we only use the place 
as an hotel. I'm in the stables or on the training-grounds 
so much of the time. Then you have eight weeks’ racing 
every year. And the sales. You don’t have much leisure 
for domesticity.” 

“ Few men work harder to lose money,” said Max 
disrespectfully. “ This is the first time Auriol’s been to 
Newmarket, sir, and she wants to see everything. It's 
goin’ to be a great experience for us all. She thinks we’re 
complete barbarians ; and I think she’s much too highly 
civilized. By the end of the week we shall be readin’ 
Hansard at meals and she’ll be takin’ the Book of Form 
to bed with her. What about a brief inspection before 
the light goes ? ” 

Auriol submitted to being led round an endless succes¬ 
sion of boxes, at the doors of which she was expected to 
invent individual appreciation of horses that looked 



182 saviours of society 

distractingly alike. She listened uncomprehendingly at 
dinner while Sir Mark discoursed of the next day’s sales ; 
and, until she could make an excuse for going to bed, 
she floundered helplessly in the wake of scandalous 
confidences about trainers who accepted commissions 
and jockeys who had overstepped the limits of conven¬ 
tional corruption. From time to time she reminded herself 
that her own hobbies were probably as tiresome to other 
people as this horse-flesh obsession to her ; once or twice 
she fancied that the drive from London in an open car 
had tired her; perilously often she caught herself 
whispering that this, even four days of this, must come 
to an end. At half-past ten, she excused herself. 

Max broke off a heated criticism of the official handi- 
capper to light her up to her room. 

“ Everything you want ? ” he enquired at the door. 
“ Can’t tell you how jolly it is to have you here, Auriol! 
I want you to enjoy every moment of the time. It’s very 
quiet, I’m afraid, with only my poor old father and me, 
but a little quiet won’t do you any harm. You bin' 
gaddin’ about too much, my child ? I thought you 
looked overtrained the other night. And I don’t like to 
hear you sayin’ that people get on your nerves. I may tell 
you that got on my nerves. Couldn't sleep all night . . .” 

“ Now, my dear Max . . .” she protested. 

“ It’s gospel truth, swelp me. I’m fond of you, Auriol, 
though you don’t seem to realize it, and I’d cut the 
heart out of your own sainted mother if I thought she 
was bein’ a bore to you. Nothin’ up, is there ? ” 

Auriol hesitated and then stood on tip-toe to kiss him : 

“ Nothing that you can remedy, Max.” 

“ I’d sooner you’d said there was nothin’ at all. And, 
if there is anythin’, I wish you’d tell me.” 

With one of his hands supporting her and the other 
gently smoothing her hair back from her forehead, Auriol 
felt suddenly at peace. 



“PULP” 


183 

“ But I’ve promised to come to you if I’m ever in 
any trouble. You’d always be sweet and you’d always 
see me through. I'm very fond of you , Max, though you 
don’t seem to realize it.” 

” I always feel you regard me as the village idiot,” 
he informed her frankly and without malice. 

” My dear, I don’t. I sometimes regard you as the 
village idler. D’you really mean that, if you had all the 
money in the world, you’d waste your life idling about 
in a training-stable ? ” 

“ If you think Stockbridge or Manton is a soft job, 
I'll take you there to see an average day’s work. I’ll 
take you out on the Heath before breakfast to-morrow 

Auriol dammed his vehemence with a kiss and bade him 
good-night. She was in bed when Sir Mark turned out 
to see his horses at work and-still in bed when Max departed 
to see sold or ordered out of the ring a succession of 
animals that he had no faintest chance of buying. When 
the three of them met for an early luncheon, she felt equal 
to running level with them for the rest of the day, but 
her first moment of genuine elation came as she walked 
to the paddock before the first race and saw Lord Orping¬ 
ton’s cornflower-blue Rolls-Royce drawn up beside the 
Jockey Club stand. 

“ Blue Peter! ” she exclaimed with the delight of one 
who finds a friend in a hostile land. 

The delight was not lost on Max. In a moment, he 
predicted wistfully, she would be asking who was going 
to be sent as governor to the Seychelles and why the 
Kenya government, if it did not want Indian labour for 
itself, could not divert it to the West Indies, where it 
was needed. He seemed to have no seat or hands for 
riding her hobbies. 

As she spoke, Lord Orpington swung into the enclosure. 

” Hullo, Auriol ! And Max ! A bone to pick with you, 
Max,” he added with a frown. “ Are you acting as regent 



184 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

for Sheridan ? If you are, I tell you frankly that I should 
like a rest from his precious papers. I’m quite aware he 
doesn’t love me ; and he probably sees that I get my 
stick free and slip a hand over my watch when I meet him 
in a lonely lane at night. I thought we’d called a truce, 
though : I don’t attack him behind his back and I’m 
damned if I see why his papers should make offensive 
personal remarks about me.” 

“ I’m afraid I don’t touch that end of the business,” 
said Max. 

He glanced at Auriol. She was listening with an eager¬ 
ness which he never succeeded in arousing. 

“ Well, if you’ll find me the responsible man, I’ll tell 
him what I think of him,” said Lord Orpington. “ The 
way I do my work is primarily a matter for the P.M. 
If the House doesn’t like it, I can be questioned and 
censured. I don’t allow inky scribes to tell me I’m 
neglecting my office to win races. My clothes are my own 
affair. I’m sick of being told I'm a ‘ picturesque per¬ 
sonality’. I’m not blaming you, but I do charge you as 
a friend to find the right man and tell him this must 
stop. It’s not clean fighting, as I understand it.” 

IV 

Once more disclaiming all influence over the Sheridan 
press, Max adroitly set Auriol to smooth the colonial 
secretary’s ruffled plumage. 

Lord Orpington, he was confident, could never resist 
a pretty, well-dressed girl; and Max was vaguely appre¬ 
hensive that she was not surrendering to the charms of 
Newmarket so quickly as he had hoped. When he ex¬ 
plained that people came here to race seriously, Auriol 
expressed regret that serious racing should necessitate 
dowdy dressing. He promised her a braver display for 
the Two Thousand Guineas, also “ such a society-mob 
that you can’t move ” ; and Auriol sacrificed his good 



“ PULP ” 


185 

opinion to her passion for truth by telling him that, while 
horses were an obvious necessity, she raced for excite¬ 
ment and in the hope of making money and for the chance 
of seeing her friends. 

“Now I suppose I’ve put myself beyond the pale,” 
she laughed impenitently. 

To challenge her confession was beyond Max’s powers 
of flattery. Auriol wheedled tips out of uncommunicative 
owners instead of inspecting the horses in the ring. 
She talked politics with Lord Orpington when she should 
have watched the horses going down. And she turned 
her back on the course when she had no bet. 

“ You'll be bitten before you know it,” Max prophesied 
without much conviction. 

The starting-bell was ringing for the most important 
race of the day ; and she had begged him, without the 
least desire to make a nuisance of herself, to take her 
where she could sit down in peace and have a cup of tea. 

“ I doubt it! Don’t think I'm not enjoying myself, 
because I am; but I wouldn’t give two pins to breed a 
Derby winner or train him or ride him or lead him in. 
I should like to be the first woman member of the Jockey 
Club : that would be a unique achievement. But, to me, 
breeding blood-stock is only like making motor-cars. 
A wonderful industry. Very important. I d never be 
head of the most wonderful industry in the world, though, 
if I could be in a position to control all the industries. 

“ If I knew what did interest you . .” Max began 

humbly. 

The glazed side of the bleak tea-room was dark with the 
backs of less indifferent race-goers, struggling for places 
at the top of the stand. He could hear the names of the 
horses called as they emerged from the Dip ; and it was 
only by pushing his stick and glasses out of reach that 
he could overcome the temptation to dash outside. 

“ I’m only interested in human beings,” Auriol 



i86 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


answered reflectively. “ The way they’re governed and 
the countries where they collect and the way the different 
countries behave to each other. I believe this is one of 
the most interesting times in the history of the world,” 
she continued with shining eyes. “ I’m thankful to be 
alive ! We’re breaking up, as Europe broke up after the 
French Revolution, after the discovery of America, 
after the fall of the Roman Empire. A new world has 
to be made. Every one’s trying his hand. I want to 
meet them all, I want to try mine! ” 

The insistent clangour of the bell had been followed 
by unearthly silence. Now the silence was being broken 
by assured voices that announced : “ Well, the favourite’s 
beat, any way.” " He’s coming again ! ” “ What’s this 
on the rails ? ” " The favourite wins ! ” “ Oh, easily ! ” 
• • • Fourteen, three, twenty-nine. What’s twenty- 
nine ? Featherbed ? Never heard of the brute ! ” 

“You should have been at that dinner Blue Peter 
gave Sheridan,” said Max. “ Geoffrey Mallock called 
em the saviours of society. . . If Parachute goes in this 
next race, it ought to be a safe thing. He ran second to 
Fair and False at Manchester, givin’ ten pounds ; and 
now he s meetin’ Gamester at level weights. You get 
a line on Gamester through Night of Stars . . .” 

Darling Max, I don’t understand a word you’re 
saying ! And I don’t believe you do either.” 

“ But it’s perfectly simple ! ” 

Not to me, my dear. We live in different worlds. 
I can never make out why we re so fond of each other.” 

Max knitted his brows in unaccustomed thought and 
then broke into a grin : 

Because we can take each other without engagements 
and forfeits. It s you I want, Auriol, and, if you care 
to save society in your spare time, bless you, / shan't 
object. And I don’t suppose you’ll object if I disguise 
myself as a rat-catcher and mingle with the joyous 



“ PULP ” 


187 

throng on the Heath from time to time. I couldn’t afford 
to race properly, if I married, unless our friend the cow 
did jump over the moon. It’s a mistake for husbands 
and wives not to have interests of their own . . 

“ Interests 1 It’s my life! I want to be in the heart 
of things all the while. ‘ Save society in your spare time. 

I adore that phrase, Max.” 

They strolled out to the top of the stand as the numbers 

for the next race went up. 

“ Well, save it all the time,” he suggested obligingly ; 
then, with an effort: “ This is the one thing I care about, 
but I'd drop it to-morrow if you put that as your reserve. 
I’d roll along and save society myself, if you’d shew me 
how. So long as I’m stuck to my present job, though . . .” 

“ I’m afraid you rather enjoy it, Max. Rent-free 
chambers in St. James’, fair pay, light work, whatever 
holidays you like to take ... I wish you shewed a little 
more ambition. . . . Your beloved Parachute is not 

going.” 

“ Then Gamester will start about three to one on. 
Come and hear what the bookies are saying. Oh, my 
Lord ! ‘ Take nine to two.' I don’t want to buy the 

perishin’ horse.” 

On returning to Conway House after the last race, 
Auriol vanished to her room and wrote to tell her mother 
that she had arrived safely and was enjoying herself. 
Her awkward hosts atoned by their devotion for t e 
undeniable discomforts of the house ; and she derive 
vague satisfaction from the knowledge that, thoug 
this was Max’s home, it would cease to be his home when 
Sir Mark died or sold the stud. Newmarket ceased to be 
Max’s world in the moment when he offered to give up 
racing for her; and she was resolved that he should 
give it up, not for her, but for himself. Already that day 
she had seen too many young men with too little to o , 
and, from affection or knowledge, she was sure that Max 



i88 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


had a future if only she or some one else could make 
him bestir himself. Had he only a little of the force 
which Ambrose possessed to superfluity, had Ambrose 
only a touch of that sympathy which made her feel warm 
and comfortable when she was with Max, what a wonderful 
combination they would make ! 

Genius strategic of Caesar or Hannibal, 

' Skill of Sir Garnet in thrashing a cannibal 
she hummed. It was a pity that husbands could not be 
constructed like heavy dragoons ; a pity that women 
could not have different husbands for different purposes, 
one to take them dancing when they were in the mood 
(Ambrose, she felt sure, never danced), one to read aloud 
to them when they were ill, one to be father of their 
children and one to be their partner in the business of 
public life. She could see herself helping Ambrose with 
his elections, presiding over his political dinners and 
managing his house for him, always with an audience, 
but she could not imagine anything more intimate. 
What would they discuss if they dined alone ? What 
private interests had they in common, with that differ¬ 
ence of age and upbringing ? No doubt common interests 
would be born of a common life, but she could not at 
present picture Ambrose apart from the House of 
Commons, or a platform, or an office, or a carefully 
organized party, which he always harangued as though 
it were a public meeting. She could not think of him as 
“Ambrose”. She wondered whether he would be very 
oppressive when he was off duty. 

And Max ? Without charm of address, without wit, 
without learning, Max contrived in some way to be a 
perfect companion for a holiday. He was good-looking, 
he was imperturbable, he was good-natured. He enjoyed 
everything when she was in the mood for enjoyment; 
and he was delightfully quiet and solicitous when she 
wanted a little peace. 



“ PULP ” 189 

A life of perpetual holiday, however, was a refinement 
of torment never imagined by Dante. . . 

V 

The husband who should be the father of her children 
was a creature Auriol had never tried to visualize. 

She was not conscious of wanting children, though she 
was willing enough to bear them as an expected part of 
a well-regulated marriage. She was not interested in 
passion and fancied that most people made an unnecessary 
to-do, both in repelling and in embracing it. If a man 
wanted to kiss her, she did not mind—except for a 
ghastly week after his demobilization, when Max smoked 
American cigarettes!—and she would not mind if no 
one ever kissed her again. 

She returned to her letter. “ Arrived in comfortable 
time for dinner. Hatfield, Baldock, Royston. Sir Mark 
and Max are being angelic, bat I’m tired out trying not to 
make a fool of myself. I can see I’m not cut out for this 
sort of thing, whereas Max told me yesterday that, if he 
could attain his heart’s desire by pressing a bell . . 

That was not quite the figure he had used; and 
Auriol paused to light a cigarette. On second thoughts, 
she decided to begin the letter anew. Every word must 
be written as carefully as it would be read ; and, if she 
allowed her opening sentences to stand, some one would 
decide that she and Max would never hit it off together 
(more probably some one would say that it was useless 
to hope that Max would save her from Sheridan !). 
Well, they never would, unless the cow jumped over the 
moon and Max blossomed into something unrecognizable. 
It was surely fairer to him and to every one else for her 
to make plain that they could never be more than friends. 
Max really knew it; or, if he did not, no one could say 
she had not told him time and again. He knew it; but 
he would not face it, because it would hurt him. And 



190 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


she would not compel him to face it, because she would 
cut herself in two rather than hurt him. In six months’ 
time, he might have to face it. And it would hurt them 
both. Perhaps, since he refused to face it now, he would 
then hint by a sneer or a frown that she had treated him 
shabbily. . . . 

Auriol tore her letter into small pieces and marched 
to the door. As her fingers touched the handle, she heard 
a gentle knock, followed by the faint murmur of her 
own name. 

“ You up and about ? Oh, may I come in ? I thought 
you might be restin’. Seven races a day is always one 
too many. I thought you might like to know I’d just had 
a cable from Geoffrey. Alexandria. Mill-pond passage 
through the Bay. No casualties to date. And no news 
of any kind.” 

Max handed her the telegram and looked anxiously 
round the room to see that she had an adequate supply 
of towels and note-paper. 

“I'm glad they've begun well,” said Auriol. " Some¬ 
how . . . Mr. Sheridan and Geoffrey . . .” 

“ They’ll be as thick as thieves by the time they come 
back. You all right, Auriol ? I’ve an idea that a small 
whiskey-and-soda wouldn’t do you any harm.” 

“ Horrible stuff I I never touch it ! ” 

“ A cocktail, then ? ” 

% 

“ I was trying to write a letter to mother. I can't. 
My brain’s all pulpy. I’m afraid I'm a very unsatis¬ 
factory guest.” 

“Yes, my dear, you are. If you must know, I didn't 
invite you here because I thought you’d like it : I hoped 
it would be a bit of a change ; and every one cracks up 
the Newmarket air. There’s something the matter, 
Auriol: my poor old father’s quite distressed about you. 
Can t you tell me ? I’m no hand at a bed-side manner, 
but it might do you good to get it off your chest. One 



“ PULP ” 



of these days I hope it’ll be my duty, as well as my 
pleasure, to love, honour and cherish you . . 

“ Don’t, Max ! ” 

“ Does that worry you ? I’ll never mention it again ! 
But as it’s always simmerin’ at the top of what I’m pleased 
to call my mind . . 

Auriol glimpsed her opportunity and dived for it: 

“ It does worry me to think that you really believe . . . 
Max, if I told you I was going to marry some one else . . 

“ Are you ? ” 

“ Heaven knows! But, if I did, you’d feel I’d let you 
down. Wouldn’t you ? ” 

“No. Not havin’ a head of my own, I believe tremen¬ 
dously in yours. If you told me that you’d thought it 
over very carefully and were convinced that Geoffrey 
Mallock, Bobbie Selhurst, any one was what I think is 
called your ‘soul-mate’, I’d shake you by both hands 
and wish you luck. I want to see you happy, my dear ! 
And you used to be simply bubblin’ over. If I thought 
you’d be happy with the man in the moon, I’d fix up an 
introduction somehow. Don’t you worry about me ! . . 

“ But I do ! ” 

Auriol found that she was still holding Geoffrey 
Mallock’s telegram ; and, to gain time, she read it once 
more. “ Exceptionally smooth passage through bay mister 
Sheridan and all members mission well arriving Alexandria 
to-day proceeding to-night Mallock.” She wished the 
cable had been delayed an hour or two : it would be so 
much easier to think of Max if she were not reminded 
of Ambrose. But for the telegram, she might have said : 
“ Oh, well, marry me if you want to” Max never pre¬ 
tended that she inspired him or that she was wonderful 
in any way, apart from her looks. He never pretended 
that he could not live without her ; but clumsily, touch¬ 
ingly, sincerely he made her feel that the world must 
be set revolving in another direction if its present move- 



i 9 2 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

ment dissatisfied her. He never asked anything for 
himself. 

“ Life would be a great deal easier if I wasn't so fond 
of you,” she sighed. 

“ It might be a bit easier if you'd tell me what the 
trouble is.” 

“ But I can’t. My brain’s in a state of pulp, as I told 
you before.” 

“ Well, leave your rotten letters and go to bed for 
half-an-hour. I’d like to stay and talk to you . . 

“ You may.” 

“ I’m goin’ to be unselfish. Good-bye.” 

” Good-bye,” Auriol murmured and then sighed, with 
a feeling not unlike despair. 

As he walked to the door, she felt that the “ pulpy '* 
state of her brain had cost her an unrivalled opportunity. 


CHAPTER IV 


" Six Months Elapse ” 


“ Take me—who know your mind, and mean your good. 

With clearer brain and stouter arm than they. 

Or you, or haply anybody else— 

And make me master for the moment! Choose 
What time, what power you trust me with : I too 
Will choose as frankly ere I trust myself 
With time and power : they must be adequate 
To the end and aim, since mine the loss, with yours, 

If means be wanting ; once their worth approved. 

Grant them, and I shall forthwith operate— 

Ponder it well!—to the extremest stretch 
O’ the power you trust me : if with unsuccess, 

God wills it, and there's nobody to blame.” 

Robert Browning: Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 

I 

T HE Otways left Rome at the end of April and 
remained in London until the beginning of 
August. 

They returned to an atmosphere of optimism which 
Lady Otway ascribed bluntly to the mildness of the 
spring weather and which every one else explained more 
ingeniously in the light of his own preconceptions. The 
ministerial press attributed the general good-humour to 
the knowledge that trade was reviving and explained 
that trade was reviving because a safe and stable govern¬ 
ment had at last restored public confidence. Week by 
week The Constitutionalist printed the number of days 
that Mr. Standish had held office and the number of 
unemployed who had been lifted into employment. 
It was an inference too obvious to be drawn that, if only 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


194 

Mr. Standish remained long enough in power, there 
would be two jobs for every man 

Speakers and writers on the labour side, unable to 
deny that exports were increasing, unemployment 
dwindling, foreign relations improving and the risk of 
war and revolution receding, pointed out that Mr. Stan¬ 
dish was assuming credit for the work of his predecessors. 
If England was at amity with France, if Germany was 
walking erect into the comity of nations, if houses were 
springing up, if the cost of living was tumbling down, 
all this and much more could be traced to the brief and 
glorious rule of the first labour administration. 

Sir Hyde Masterman, on behalf of a liberal party that 
was meagrely represented inside the House, claimed this 
industrial recovery as another triumph for free trade. 

II 

The Sheridan press, taking a line of its own, set out 
certain dates and facts, leaving fair-minded readers to 
draw their own conclusions. 

The problem of unemployment, unsolved and insoluble 
so long as hack politicians refused to see that the war 
had brought a new world into existence, was faced boldly 
for the first time when the present government—not to 
mince matters—called in a dictator to its aid. History 
would say, prophesied the Sheridan press, that Mr. 
Standish deserved well of his country inasmuch as he 
had recognized the existence of a problem; Lord 
Orpington deserved hardly less well in that he had 
modestly and unhesitatingly realized his own inability 
to solve the problem and had handed it over to the best 
man available. Mr. Sheridan had deserved well of his 
country by waiving his claim to a place in the cabinet, 
setting aside private obligations and personal convenience, 
accepting the trust as soon as it was offered and risking 



" SIX MONTHS ELAPSE ” 195 

his reputation by engaging in a venture that had hitherto 
met with nothing but direst failure. 

His services could be appraised better when the public 
had been given time to see his work as a whole, but 
already the public must be aware of a new spirit at home 
and abroad. From the day on which Mr. Sheridan con¬ 
sented to take a mission abroad, the figures of unemploy¬ 
ment had been declining steadily. The curve of their 
decline might profitably be studied in relation to certain 
events on certain days : Mr. Sheridan’s speech to the 
associated chambers of commerce, his message on leaving 
Tilbury, his first address to British traders abroad, the 
despatches which he was sending home. Enthusiasm 
and confidence were the dominant notes in everything 
he said or wrote, in every meeting he convened. If the 
people of England would play their part, the transition 
from one world to another could be accomplished safely, 
tranquilly, easily. The men on whom the economic 
revival depended were saying, as had said those on whom 
victory in war had depended: "We shall win if the 
politicians don’t let us down." 

Of the few men who enjoyed being complimented on 
their perspicacity in admitting their own incompetence 
and on their honesty in proclaiming it, the Earl of 
Orpington and Selhurst was not one. 

“ Deserve well, do I ? in unhesitatingly recognizing 
my own inability . . . Get hold of Max,” he bade Kenneth 
Doyle, “ and say I shall hold him personally respons¬ 
ible . . ” 

" I can tell Sheridan that Blue Peter’s getting fussed,” 
Max conceded when his personal responsibility had been 
explained to him. “ That’s part of my job. But I’ve no 
more control over his press than you have. Blue Peter 
can afford to ignore these midge-bites.” 

“ But apparently Sheridan’s being taken seriously,” cried 
Doyle, slapping impatiently at a pile of news-cuttings. 



196 saviours of society 

“ It’s his over-seas manner,” said Max. “ He knows 
the dope for colonials.” 

" That’s all very well, but he has a following of sorts 
here ! ” 

“ He knows the dope for the people here.” 

“ The attack isn’t confined to his own rags now; 
there's a well-organized conspiracy going on. If you 
haven’t been following it, this may interest you.” He 
pushed a news-cutting album across the table. “I’m 
responsible for the way the items are arranged.” 

Max began to read a collection of extracts that seemed 
to have been made as an impartial record of the Sheridan 
Trade Commission. Beginning with Mr. Sheridan’s 
acceptance of the task, it followed him port by port, 
interview by interview, pronouncement by pronounce¬ 
ment. The speeches were necessarily monotonous ; and 
Max remembered wistfully that he had counted on six 
months’ holiday from the statement that one part of the 
empire was crying for work while another cried out for 
workmen, with the corollary that Adelaide and London 
must be brought as near together as Birmingham and 
Liverpool. 

He read with keener interest when he encountered 
warnings against “hack politicians”. Mr. Sheridan, 
whose last public pronouncement on English soil had been 
that party-politics were dead, himself remained scrupu¬ 
lously aloof from party cries and passions ; but, as his 
speeches were cabled to England, a number of papers 
underlined his warnings and supplied names where he 
had been discreetly vague. Without observing the 
stages by which his own mind was being coloured, Max 
found that he was being insidiously persuaded to regard 
Lord Orpington as the pantaloon, if not the villain, of 
the piece. Phrases about the colonial secretary's 
“picturesque personality” were making even a friend, 
with means of knowing better, fancy that, if a man was 



“ SIX MONTHS ELAPSE " 


197 

picturesque, he could be nothing else, that he must be 
a mountebank in politics, a hindrance and danger to the 
colleagues whom he obstructed and an insult to the 
peoples whose interests he neglected. 

“ They're pitchin’ it pretty strong," said Max. " He 
must have offended the press in some way. The Sheridan 
papers are bein' quite fulsome, by comparison." 

“ If you call it fulsome to say a man’s doing his best 
according to his lights." 

Max returned to his news-cuttings and observed, with 
the aid of Doyle’s selection and arrangement, the budding 
and burgeoning of a myth. To his audience abroad, 
Sheridan was already the one man in all England to 
arrest the decay of an empire; his audience at home 
was being taught, against his return, to see him in this 
light. He would come back as a man who spoke for the 
empire he wanted to save; the empire wanted to be 
saved by him. Only a parcel of “ hack politicians ” stood 
in his way. Max recalled the cartoon which Auriol had 
shewn him, with its Napoleonic legend : “ They tried 
to get rid of me too.” A later cartoon might have por¬ 
trayed Buonaparte being kept from the French people 
by a hack Directory. 

“ And all the time,” said Doyle, “ he has not made 
one specific proposal, one suggestion, one anything that 
could be put into a bill or an agreement. ' Imperial 
resources . . . ! ’ It’s froth, like the stuff our party talks 
when it tells you to vote for Smith and ‘ the empire ’; 
it’s like the stuff these labour people talk when they 
promise to cure all ills by ‘socialism’, without even telling 
you what it means. If he vapours about ‘ an Imperial 
trade policy ’ in the House, he’ll be turned inside out." 

" Well, there’s your chance ! " said Max, standing up 
to leave. 

“ I shan’t be there," Doyle answered, as they walked 
to the door. “ I’m retiring at the end of this session." 



198 saviours of society 

“ Retirin’ ? ” Max echoed. In his latest report to 
Sheridan he had mentioned that, when the present 
postmaster-general resigned, Kenneth Doyle would almost 
certainly be offered his place. “ But you’re one of our 
cornin’ men ! ” 

“I’m being divorced,” Doyle confided abruptly. 
“ And it’s come at an unfortunate time. Standish had 
a talk with me last week about the Post Office; and 
I thought it only fair to warn him. As I don’t fancy the 
position of perpetual private member . . . That’s by the 
way, though.’’ 

Max mumbled sympathetically and asked again what 
Lord Orpington required of him. 

“ I think you might drop your worthy chief a hint. 
Blue Peter has told the P.M. he can’t carry on without 
the confidence of the people he’s supposed to be govern¬ 
ing.” 

Though the ultimatum had been delivered sooner than 
he expected. Max knew Lord Orpington well enough to 
be sure that an ultimatum would come. 

“ These things are rather above the head of a humble 
bottle-washer,” he answered. “ Isn’t Blue Peter playing 
Sheridan’s game ? ” 

“ Not if it’s Sheridan’s game to climb into the cabinet 
over Peter’s body. When the P.M. formed his govern¬ 
ment, certain people said they’d resign rather than 
serve with him. Well, it was only three or four then, 
but it’ll be the entire party now. They’ll boycott him. 
And I don't know that any other party wants to have 
him back.” 

“ Would Blue Peter like me to say that ? ” Max 
enquired with a grin. 

“ He only wants these attacks to stop. It won’t do 
your chief any harm, though, if he remembers that Blue 
Peter carries some little weight with the party ” 



" SIX MONTHS ELAPSE 


199 


III 

On thinking over the advice, Max was sufficiently 
impressed to consult Andrew Livingstone whether a 
warning should be cabled in code. And, on leaving the 
City, he called at Cleveland Row and invited himself to 
lunch with Laura Sheridan. 

Three months had passed since he waved farewell at 
Tilbury ; and the mission was by now more than half¬ 
way round the world. As he waited in the library, Max 
decided that Sheridan grew bigger as he became more 
remote. No man, indeed, was more adroit in manipulating 
the unfamiliar and still suspect instrument of personal 
publicity ; but, even without his punctual despatches, 
even without the unremitting efforts of the editors to 
keep his memory green, the public would have continued 
to talk about him. For so many years he had monopo¬ 
lized so large a share of attention ; he had taught his 
readers to look for him, as for an illusionist, in garbs so 
unlikely at times so unexpected; his worst enemies 
would regret his death in that they would no longer 
be able to wonder each day what “ the fellow ” would 
do next. And the departure of his mission was not unlike 
the sailing of a polar expedition. An echo of adventure 
and romance was carried back to a country that was 
stagnating under the rule of the least romantic and most 
unadventurous government in living memory. 

“ Wish my history wasn’t so shaky ! ” Max muttered, 
ranging in front of the wire-screened book-cases. 

Fresh from his interview with Kenneth Doyle, he wanted 
to determine what was amiss with his present masters. 
He decided that they were smug. Labour might be wordy 
and unpractical; liberalism might be conceited and 
intellectually arrogant; conservatism, normally, might 
be anything. The conservative ministers whom Mr. 
Standish had collected were insufferably well-pleased 
with themselves. Ferrers, Carmichael, Jardine; Fer- 



200 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


guson, Rodney, Hume ; even Waterlow and Orpington : 
they were Little Jack Homers, they were "saps”, they 
were "white-headed boys”. No thanks to them (or to 
Ambrose Sheridan or any one), economic conditions 
were improving; and they wearied all who would listen 
by boasting of the pounds they had saved, the houses 
they were building, the employment they had created. 
Max lamented his sketchiness of historical equipment 
because he was still brooding over the Napoleonic carica¬ 
ture and was trying to add a further parallel. " They 
tried to get rid of me too.” ..." They tried to keep me 
from my people . . .” What did the French say of 
Buonaparte after his departure for the east ? 

Instinctively, Max felt that they must have regarded 
their worthy Directors very much as he regarded Mr. 
Standish’s smug team. They had all the virtues, not 
excluding dulness; and such was the contrariety of 
human nature that the very people who had been praying 
for security, tranquillity, sanity and soundness were the 
first to be dissatisfied when their prayers were answered. 
Hardly had the shadow of foreign conquest been removed 
before the gunmen of the club smoking-rooms were 
forming armies of " English fascisti ” and the gunmen 
of labour executives proclaiming that every strike was 
part of a social war which must be " fought to a finish.” 
Like the French in the last years of the eighteenth 
century, they were tingling and restless from the memory 
of a soul-searching conflict; in the morning-hour of life 
they had ridden abroad with adventure on their pillion 
and had shivered a lance with death. Not for them the 
punctual monotony of peace, if a stranger came to them 
telling of risk and glory : a Napoleon, guaranteeing them 
their revolution and hinting at a fabulous empire; a 
Sheridan, leading them to order through a wasted world 
of anarchy and ruin. 

And Kenneth Doyle said with resentful incredulity that 



“ SIX MONTHS ELAPSE ” 


201 


“ the fellow " had “ a following of sorts ” in England. 
Though secretly ashamed of his weakness, Max had to 
admit that his cheapjack chief in some way stimulated 
his imagination. 

“ I just looked in for a gossip,” he explained, when 
Laura came down. “ Lord Orpington's very savage 
because he never gets a good press nowadays. He thinks 
Mr. Sheridan is responsible and talks of resigning if he 
can’t get fair play. We needn’t bother our heads about 
that, but I'm told that, if he resigns, he'll go bald-headed 
for your husband, pullin’ every string in his power to 
keep him from ever bein’ taken into a government. 
Interestin’. I’ve filed it all for reference in my public- 
opinion-day-by-day, but I wanted to hear your views. 
Peter Orpington carries a tremendous lot of weight with 
the cabinet and the sort of Derby-Day crowd; Mr. 
Sheridan carries a tremendous lot of weight with all 
sorts and conditions. If it came to a tug-of-w’ar ...” 

Laura took a chair with its back to the light and 
motioned Max into another. 

" It rather depends what they were fighting about,” 
she answered. 

“ I suppose he’ll make a report that he knows Orpington 
won’t accept: imperial council, standin' committee of 
imperial defence and commerce . . .” 

Laura's face lighted up with a smile of quietly trium¬ 
phant confidence: 

“ Then I believe he’d win. I believe he can do any¬ 
thing he wants. Perhaps that's because he always has 
got his way. I believe he stands higher than he ever 
did before. As I told you the other day, unless he throws 
everything away ...” 

“ He knows too much.” 

Laura hesitated and turned her head to the window. 
As her face met the light, Max fancied that she was 
looking pinched and worried 



202 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“ There can be so many kinds of slip 'twixt the cup 
and the lip,” she sighed. “ Have you heard from him 
lately, Max ? ” 

“ Not since last I saw you. Have you ? ” 

” He doesn’t write to me.” As soon as the confession 
was spoken, Laura tried to turn the edge of its meaning. 
“ It’s such a weariness, when you’re abroad, if you have 
to write the same thing again and again to different 
people. We agreed that he should keep a journal and 
send it to you to have copied and distributed. . . . Well, 
I suppose they’re beginning to get our letters now. 
He never said quite definitely what day he would be 
back ? ” 

” It wasn’t possible. He’s to let me know as soon as 
he comes within wireless-range of England.” 

“ And that won’t be for nearly three months yet.,. . . 
Well, what news have you for me ? As you know, I go 
out very little . . .” 

Max considered for a moment and then poured out all 
the gossip that he had been able to collect, beginning 
with Kenneth Doyle’s impending divorce. He described 
a successful meeting at Ascot and a less successful one 
at Windsor. He announced his plans for the late summer 
and outlined the holiday he purposed to take before 
Mr. Sheridan returned. 

“ You lead a very happy life,” Laura commented as 
he paused. 

“ Not much to complain of. I should like to feel a bit 
more settled. This job was never intended to be more 
than a makeshift.” 

“ Yes, you should be independent,” she agreed. 

” That’s easier said than done. If you’ve no money 
of your own, you’re bound to take it from some one . . 

“ It makes a difference who you take it from. I don’t 
think any one could take money from my husband and 

emain independent. Except Mr. Livingstone. . - 



" Six MONTHS ELAPSE ” 


203 

Ambrose is a very masterful man, he likes power; and 
I think he only cares about money for the power it gives 
him. My brother Tony . . . I’m very fond of him, but 
you mustn’t sell yourself as Tony’s done. Or, let me 
say, as I’ve done. It’s a terrible thing to let any one 
become indispensable to you.” 

“ But you do that if you're fond of people, without 
any question of money.” 

“ Ah, yes. . . . But when you depend on people for 
money ... I can never meet Ambrose on an equality, 
one human being meeting another, because I haven't 
a penny apart from what he gives me. This is very sordid, 
though ! What other news have you ? ” 

“ I don't think I’ve any. Things came to a standstill 
on the day Mr. Sheridan sailed. They'll begin to move 
again on the day he lands, but in the meantime I feel 
this is an entr'acte. ‘ Six months elapse.’ ” 

“ The papers are beginning to prepare for his return 
already. That will be the big sensation of the autumn. 
You see, his report must be revolutionary, or people will 
say he's failed. They'll say the boom in trade is inde¬ 
pendent of him. He can’t allow that. ‘ Act Two. Six 
months have elapsed. The Koh-i-nor is being tugged into 
Southampton.” ...” she improvised with a smile. 

IV 

Less than a week passed before Max was given cause 
to admire once again Laura Sheridan’s political sense 
or her knowledge of the tactics to expect of her husband. 

From Brisbane, where the mission was making its last 
halt on Australian soil, came reports of the speeches in 
which Mr. Sheridan summarized his conclusions on the 
first half of his voyage. A second instalment was promised 
rom New Zealand ; his utterances in Canada would be 
cabled to England day by day ; and, while it would be 
obviously improper for him to broadcast his report 



204 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

before submitting it to the prime minister, there could 
be no objection to his epitomizing the recommendations 
which he had in fact already made publicly to one audience 
after another. 

No common policy, declared Sheridan, could be achieved 
in questions of imperial trade or communication until 
machinery had been erected. Imperial conferences 
which presented recommendations to one government 
and saw them rejected by the next were a waste of time 
for all who attended them ; high commissioners without 
plenary powers were a waste of the money paid for their 
maintenance. Before anything else, the dominions and 
colonies must outgrow their distrust of their own rep¬ 
resentatives and of each other ; and, if nothing would 
overcome their suspicion that Downing Street was 
hypnotizing their representatives when in fact their 
representatives were shedding a little of their native 
parochialism, the dominions and colonies should send 
ambassadors to London and there control them by cable. 
Without some kind of standing conference, however, 
it was idle to expect a common policy and common 
action. 

With a wry smile. Max recollected Mrs. Sheridan’s 
prediction that her husband’s recommendations would be 
revolutionary. 

“ Blue Peter won't care for this," he prophesied. 

The recommendations following were likely to be even 
less palatable, not only to Lord Orpington but to three 
of his colleagues. Straying unabashed outside his terms 
of reference, Sheridan developed his scheme for a standing 
conference. Once the machinery had been erected, its 
operations, he urged, should not be confined to questions 
of trade and communications. At present there was no 
adequate opportunity for common deliberation of problems 
of foreign policy and defence. Downing Street called the 
tune and then waited anxiously to see who would join 



" Six MONTHS ELAPSE ” 


205 

in the dance or help to pay the piper. In the Chanak 
affair, the cabinet was within twenty-four hours of war 
without knowing what support it could expect from the 
dominions. At no time had the Foreign Office any assur¬ 
ance that its treaties would be ratified by one or any 
of the dominions. When the standing conference was 
erected, its duties must include the preparation of a foreign 
policy by which all would be bound and of naval and 
military agreements to which all would subscribe. 

Max whistled to himself in fearful joy at the emotions 
which this unauthorized recommendation was likely to 
arouse. Sir John Ferrers, then, was to be “ assisted ” 
at the Foreign Office by a council of dominion ambassadors. 
When the council had finished with him, it would adjourn 
to the Admiralty or War Office, there to help Mr. Rodney 
or Mr. Carmichael in framing such plans of campaign 
as they could advise their governments to support. 

“ If I didn’t know him,” said Max, ” I should say he 
was ridin’ for a fall.” 

From the Brisbane speech he turned to the criticism 
of it in the English press. With hardly an exception, the 
London papers printed a digest and accompanied it by 
a leading-article to explain that it would be unsatisfactory 
to comment on what at best was an interim report. 
With hardly an exception they referred courteously to 
Mr. Sheridan's unique experience and fine public spirit 
in undertaking the mission. Then half fell silent. 

The other half, made up almost equally of his own and 
of independent journals, had evidently decided to squeeze 
the last drop of “ news-value ” out of his mission and 
himself. They pandered to the presumed English passion 
for a strong man ; they catered liberally for the proved 
English love of personal details ; and they set themselves 
to shew that newspaper interest, once set in motion, 
increased in size and momentum, like a rolling snow-ball, 
without extraneous help. The first photographs, sent 



206 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


back from India, were now supplemented by those which 
had been posted ahead while the mission was pausing in 
Australia. Day by day Mr. Sheridan was exhibited in a 
Government House group, leaning out of a train or 
ascending a gangway. His speeches were enlivened by 
pictures of the buildings in which he made them. And 
an insidious atmosphere of excitement was created as the 
Koh-i-nor steamed slowly westward and the newspaper¬ 
reading public was reminded that Mr. Sheridan was on 
his way home. It was doubtful, Max thought, whether 
one man in ten thousand could define why he was excited 
or what he expected Sheridan to do, but a prize-fighter 
or cinematograph-actress could not have been tracked 
more closely nor awaited more eagerly. The buoyancy, 
which the Otways had remarked on their return to 
London in the spring, seemed to be kept alive by a blind 
faith that the good times would be made even better 
when Mr. Sheridan came back. 

His return, as Laura had predicted, would be the big 
" sensation ” of the autumn. 

“ You can’t explain it,” said Lord Otway, as he left 
the House of Lords one afternoon with the colonial 
secretary. “ Some people strike the popular imagination, 
others don’t. In our own time Churchill and George 
and K. and Jacky Fisher ; before them, Randolph and 
Jo. The public has a liking for them even when it’s 
opposed to them. For some reason, the mob has always 
believed in Sheridan.” 

“ The mob—or a big section of it—continued to 
believe in Bottomley even after he’d been sent to prison,” 
Lord Orpington rejoined. “ Perhaps if he’d been taken 
into a government ...” 

" Does Standish think of taking Sheridan in ? ” 

Lord Orpington swung his stick impatiently : 

“You never know what Standish does think ! He’s 
an artful old fox and he’s putting some of us in a very 



“ SIX MONTHS ELAPSE ' 


207 

tight comer. To be frank with you, when Sheridan was 
sent out, I expected him to fail.” 

“ He hasn’t failed, he hasn’t succeeded. Conditions 
have improved, certainly ; but, though I think he’s 
entitled to the credit for that, he can't claim it. There’s 
no proof.” 

" I'm afraid he’ll manufacture it. This boom . . . 
It’s come from nothing ! Nothing but vague expectation. 
Every one looks to see him brandishing an elixir. If he 
doesn’t ? God knows, he doesn’t want a slump, but 
I doubt if he could prevent it. And, if he makes his 
tomfool recommendations, if he puts a pistol to our heads, 
what are we going to do ? Standish wants to keep the 
government together and he’s afraid of leaving Sheridan 
to attack him from outside. He's afraid, too, of a split, 
if he brings him in. Johnnie Ferrers still says he'll call 
a strike if any non-union men are employed.” 

Lord Otway grimaced at the metaphor. Though the 
foreign secretary was a merciless opponent of trade- 
unionism in industry, he aspired to make of his party 
the strictest close corporation. 

“ I think he’s mistaken ; and so I told Standish three 
months ago. Nobody, I said, should be allowed to lay 
any one else under a ban of perpetual excommunication. 
If Ferrers would resign rather than serve with Sheridan, 
the P.M. had better accept his resignation.” 

“ It's not Ferrers alone.” 

Lord Otway debated with himself how much it was 
prudent to tell Lord Orpington in his present mood of 
resentment. For three months, ever since the prime 
minister asked who could be trusted to join the cabinet 
if Ferrers and his friends left, a “ second eleven ” had 
been forming under Lord Otway’s captaincy. 

“ I doubt if Carmichael and the others would resign in 
sympathy,” he answered. ” I doubt, indeed, whether 
Ferrers himself would do more than threaten. The 



208 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


position has changed a bit since the original league-and- 
covenant was formed against Sheridan. Some of us are 
prepared to judge a man by his works ...” 

” But you wouldn’t serve with a man who spends 
all his time stabbing his colleagues in the back ? ” 

Put in such a form, the question was embarrassing. 

" He's not stabbing his colleagues,” Lord Otway 
distinguished : “he’s not in the cabinet as yet. I think 
he ought to be. I think it’s time this boycott ceased. 
The P.M. asked whether I’d fill a place if necessary ; 
and I promised my support and the support of any one 
who pays me the compliment of listening to my advice.” 

V 

Lord Orpington walked for some moments in silence; 
then he laughed ruefully : 

“ I wondered why he's seemed so much more sure of 
himself lately. He can tell Ferrers now, thanks to you, 
to resign and be damned.” 

“ I hope you don’t feel . . ” Lord Otway began. 

“ It doesn’t affect me. I've shot my bolt. I've told 
the P.M. that I can’t continue to serve while I'm being 
sniped on every hand by Sheridan's sharp-shooters. 
If he can get an undertaking that this will stop, I’m 
ready to continue. Otherwise I go back to a life that 
amuses me very much more than sitting in a stuffy 
cabinet, working in a mouldy office ...” 

” If you resign, you’re leaving Sheridan a clear field. 

I wonder if that’s desirable.” 

" You don’t seem to love him any more than I do ! ” 
laughed Lord Orpington. 

” I don't. I admire his abilities, I recognize his force, 
but I don’t know where I am with him. We don't employ 
the same standards, we don’t use the same language. 
What would you have thought, Peter, ten years ago, if 
I’d made love to one of your girls ? ” 



" SIX MONTHS ELAPSE ” 


209 

They had reached the steps of Nugent’s Club ; and 
Lord Orpington, feeling that his advice was being sought, 
checked and led the way to a couple of arm-chairs in the 
bow-window looking on St. James' Street. 

“ I can’t imagine it, somehow.” To add that he could 
not imagine his daughters' allowing a married man twice 
their age to make love to them would have seemed a 
reflection on Auriol. “ In fairness to Sheridan, he could 
quote precedents among people who ought to know better 
Matheson. Avonmouth.” 

Lord Otway nodded and looked cautiously round the 
morning-room. If the world had not become more lax 
since the war, it had certainly become more shameless. 
What would Mr. Balfour or Lord Salisbury have thought, 
in old days, of a secretary of state who had been observed 
helplessly drunk in three continents ? What would the 
old Duchess of Devonshire or Lady Portroyal have said 
to some of the men and women who were still received? 
A Portroyal grand-daughter was now to be seen every¬ 
where in the company of Lord Larchester, challenging 
Lady Larchester—it was said—to divorce her husband. 
Sir Herbert Worplesden and the Ryecroft child were 
hardly less notorious than Lord Preston and Miss Hayes. 
These girls cared as little about a reputation for virtue 
as about virtue itself. Ostracism had no terrors for those 
who had ostracized themselves in advance ; and the 
Cosmopolitan Club would receive them when every 
private door was closed in their faces. Lord Otway was 
old enough to have seen society in London changing 
out of recognition. He had watched the impoverished old 
aristocracy being driven back by a Jewish' invasion and 
an American invasion ; he had seen the lawyers and 
manufacturers and merchants forcing their way to the 
front ; and he had yielded precedence to the owners of 
breweries and ships and newspapers. Each new strain 
had brought with it a change of manners : society now 



210 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


was less temperate and less conscientious, more irrespons¬ 
ible and more irreverent than in his Victorian youth 
It had not, however, been more vicious until the final 
revolution of the war 

“ I don’t know, I’m sure . . .” he muttered helplessly. 

Worplesden was a minister. Preston was a power in 
the north of England. Larchester bore an historic title. 
All three of them had wives and grown-up families. 
Sometimes their daughters were the friends of their 
fathers' mistresses ; sometimes they refused to meet 
them. 

“ If we set the example . . sighed Lord Orpington. 
Detesting puritanism, he still held that it was bad form 
for a man to parade his private affairs in public ; and 
his instinct for caste taught him that the men of his 
order had no business to corrupt the women of their 
order. “ We’ve let in such an odd lot lately . . 

Since Balfour's day the leaders of the party had all 
been drawn from the middle class. Bonar Law, Baldwin, 
Standish : all merchants or manufacturers. So with 
their lieutenants. Carson, Birkenhead, Rodney and 
Horne were lawyers. Chamberlain and Carmichael were 
sons of manufacturers. And it was not even the English 
middle class, which one did at least know. Public life 
in England was coming to be controlled more and more 
by Canadians, like Beaverbrook, and South Africans, 
like Stavely, who bought papers, supported this faction 
or that, shoved their oars in generally. And the Jews, 
as ever, had halted a caravan in their midst. 

“ Sheridan will be home in the autumn,” said Lord 
Otway. " J. don’t know what to say. He might well feel 
I was being unreasonable in forbidding an innocent 
friendship between him and Auriol, when much more 
serious things are going on all round you. The fact is, 
I don’t believe in these innocent friendships between 
a man of his age and a girl of hers ! ” 



it 


" SIX MONTHS ELAPSE " 


211 


But you can trust Auriol! " 

“ She won't run away with him, but if he tells her 
he's a free man . . ." 

Lord Otway broke off and stared miserably out of the 
window. These things lay without his ken. To marry 
a man after such a divorce was morally no better than to 
run away with him. Technicalities were being observed, 
appearances kept up, but the guilt of the principals was 
not diminished by a subterfuge. 

“ She’ll be in the fashion," was the only comfort 
Lord Orpington could offer. 

" I don't profess to like divorce, though I try not to 
be narrow-minded," Lord Otway declared. “ I wouldn't 
necessarily object to my daughter’s marrying a man 
who'd had one wife already, but when she drives him into 
the divorce court. . . . And that’s what Auriol would 
be doing, though she doesn’t see it. Sheridan would 
never have contemplated a divorce if he hadn’t wanted 
to marry her." 

“ Have they made up their minds to it ? " 

“ Oh, God knows ! They're thinking it over. I suppose 
they’ll decide as soon as he comes back. She's upset by 
his glamour, poor child ! I can understand it. He has 
great personality, he has done big things. And when she 
sees a man like that on his knees to her . . . There've been 
times when I’ve hoped this mission would be a failure, 
to shake her faith in him ; but I believe it would have 
the opposite effect, I believe she’d feel she must stand 
shoulder to shoulder with him." 

“ You'd better pray for it to be a success," Lord 
Orpington recommended. “ If Sheridan’s given a seat 
in the cabinet, there can’t be any question of a divorce. 
That's one of the few things Standish is firm about. 
Only fear, I suppose : he’s afraid of the church party 
and the nonconformists ; but he won’t have a scandal. 

I wanted him to give Carden’s job to my : cousin, young 



212 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


Kenneth Doyle, but Standish refused point-blank. He’d 
heard rumours, he said.” . . . 

Lord Otway's thoughts went back to the day when he 
urged the prime minister to send Sheridan abroad. 
Clearly enough, on that occasion, he had seen that a great 
failure or a great success would suit him equally well: 
the first by pricking a bubble, the second by inflating it 
to such size that it had to be preserved at all costs. 
There was always the chance, however, that the mission 
would lie mid-way between success and failure. Sheridan 
might produce his report, he might lay claim to have 
solved every problem set him and a few more added 
gratuitously ; but, until effect had been given to his 
recommendations, he remained the author of an untried, 
paper plan. 

“ I wish I knew whether Standish has the courage to 
force Sheridan in over the heads of Ferrers and Co.,” 
said Lord Otway. 

“ They won’t resign if they dream their resignations 
will be accepted. It’s Standish himself who's the difficulty: 
he can't make up his mind whether it's worse to be 
attacked by Sheridan from outside or devoured by him 
from within.” 

“ Sheridan won’t be content with a letter of thanks,” 
Lord Otway predicted. “ He expects office ; and he'll 
let fly, if he doesn’t get it. Can’t you persuade Standish 
that he’s doomed if he doesn't take Sheridan in ? ” 

“ Though you think he’s doomed if he does ? ” 

“ I’m afraid I don’t care what happens to Standish or 
the government or the country if only I can get Auriol 
out of this entanglement.” 



CHAPTER V 


The Curtain Rises 


... At last 

O the long degraded and insulting day, 

Sudden the clock told it was judgment-time. 

Then he addressed himself to speak indeed 

To the fools, not knaves : they saw him walk straight down 

Each step of the eminence, as he first engaged. 

And stand at last o’ the level,—all he swore. 

' People, and not the people’s varletry, 

' This is the task you set myself and these I 

‘ Thus I performed my part of it, and thus 

‘ They thwarted me throughout, here, here, and here : 

' Study each instance 1 yours the loss, not mine. 

' What they intend now is demonstrable 
‘ As plainly : here's such man, and here's such mode 
' Of making you some other than the thing 
' You, wisely or unwisely, choose to be, 

' And only set him up to keep you so. 

' Do you approve this ? Yours the loss, not mine. 

' Do you condemn it ? There’s a remedy. 

‘ Take me . . .’ " 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohensliel-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 


I 

T HE Koh-i-nor reached Vancouver in the height of 
the Canadian summer and proceeded through the 
Panama Canal and up to Halifax while Ambrose Sheridan 
conducted his mission across the continent. From 
Halifax he brought it south to Bermuda and the West 
Indies. In the first days of autumn a cable from Barbados 
announced that they were sailing for home. And the 
newspaper-public, long artificially stimulated to watch 
for their return, learned with excitement that they would 
land in England no more than twelve days later 

213 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


214 

The cable, despatched from Bridgetown, was addressed 
to Max, with the usual instruction to make its contents 
known to all concerned. After communicating with the 
press, he telephoned to Kenneth Doyle, visited Andrew 
Livingstone in the City, left a message for Tony Rush- 
forth and called on Laura Sheridan. For the first time in 
his experience she was unable to see him ; and he gave 
the half-hour which he had destined for her to a walk 
across the park on the chance of finding the Otways 
at home. 

Though he pretended to ridicule the attitude of tip-toe 
expectancy into which Sheridan had forced his public, 
Max realized that, for different and more definite reasons, 
he was awaiting the Koh-i-nor as eagerly as any one 
How well or ill he had laboured as “ director of intelli¬ 
gence ” he must leave Sheridan to say, but he was not 
prepared to continue in a position that held no prospects, 
no responsibility, little money and less work. During 
the last six months, Max had attended every important 
race-meeting in the south of England, he had spent every 
week-end in some pleasant party, he had danced through¬ 
out the London season, he had gambled of an afternoon 
at Yates' and he had always been at hand when Auriol 
wanted to be taken out to dinner or a play. It had been 
enjoyable enough, but it was expensive, it was unprofit¬ 
able and it was demoralizing. To his fury. Max found 
that he was putting on weight ; more than one candid 
friend told him that he was looking dissipated ; and 
those who did not wait to consider the terms of his 
engagement with Sheridan imagined that he was out of 
work and wondered whether anybody would ever find 
him fit for anything. 

ill 

t 

This, however, did not matter until Auriol began to 
treat him as a loafer 



THE CURTAIN RISES 


215 

" If I were you, I should have a good rest to get up 
strength," she recommended when he told her of the 
Koh-i-nor's movements. " If you suddenly begin to 
work, you’ll strain something inside you." 

“ Not my fault there hasn’t been enough to do," Max 
answered. “ I bin obeyin' orders." 

“ Oh, I know ! The order to stand easy is one you’d 
never disobey. All the same, if you’d had any backbone, 
Max, you wouldn't have been content to vegetate. You'd 
have struck out a line for yourself.” 

“ And left Uncle Sheridan in the lurch ? " As Auriol's 
nerves were obviously fretted, he refrained from remind¬ 
ing her that he had " vegetated ” (or stuck to his post, 
however one liked to regard it) at her orders. “ Are 
you goin’ to invite me to lunch with you ? " 

“ Yes, if you like. Bobbie Selhurst and Ayhvin are 
coming. And a few more. Did Mr. Sheridan say anything 
about his work ? " 

Max hesitated before answering. He would have been 
better pleased if no members of Lord Orpington's family 
had been invited for that day. In spite of reiterated 
explanations that he neither controlled nor inspired the 
Sheridan press, they persisted in holding him vaguely 
responsible for the attacks on their father. And with 
every mile that Sheridan drew nearer to England the 
attacks became more malevolent. While his own speeches 
and despatches remained scrupulously courteous, an 
insidious propaganda could be deduced from the criticism 
of the colonial press and from the extracts which the 
Sheridan press was punctual to publish. The dominion 
governments had been told that they could hope for 
nothing so long as Lord Orpington remained at the 
Colonial Office ; their papers repeated, as a discovery of 
their own, what Sheridan had told them ; and the 
Sheridan press reprinted, as the unanimous and unbiassed 
opinion of the dominions governments and press, what 



216 saviours of society 

Sheridan had persuaded them to regard as their own 
discovery. 

Perhaps it was imagination, but Max fancied that, 
when the Orpingtons met him nowadays, their smiles 
became fixed and their eyes bright with hostility. 

“ Did Mr. Sheridan say anything about his work ? ” 
Auriol repeated. “ Is he pleased with it ? ” 

“ It wouldn’t be like him if he wasn’t. More to the 
point to know whether the cabinet’s pleased with him. 
I know one member who's not: Blue Peter. He’s very 
savage ...” 

He broke off as the door opened to admit ” Blue 
Peter s youngest daughter and son. They were followed 
by Lady Otway and Cohn, who were followed in turn by 
Tony Rushforth : a newcomer to Manchester Square 
and one who could not wholly conceal his satisfaction at 
being there. 

I thought you’d be interested to know that Mr. 
Sheridan sailed from Barbados yesterday,” Tony began 
impressively to the room at large. 

Then he caught sight of Max, to whom he owed this 
tit-bit of news, and his face fell. 

It s in the evenin’ papers,” said Max, who would have 
objected less to Tony’s method of securing invitations 
if he had given better value for the food he consumed. 

I broadcast the glad tidin’s before ringin’ you up.” 

“ 1 heard about it from father,” said Lady Aylwin. 

Did he tell you he’d fused the wire with sheer heat 
of profanity when he heard ? ” asked Max. 

Well, hang it all. . .” Selhurst began, then stopped as 
he realized that he was about to attack Sheridan in the 
hearing of Sheridan's brother-in-law. “We all wish 
he’d give it up.” 

He would have, Lady Aylwin added, turning on 
Tony the hard smile and brightly hostile eyes which she 
normally reserved for Max, ” but he was afraid of splitting 



THE CURTAIN RISES 217 

the cabinet. I don’t suppose, though, that weighs with 
you. Another labour government ..." 

“ You mustn’t hold me responsible," Tony protested. 
"I act as trustee for my brother-in-law, but that’s all. 
I only mentioned his name because Lady Otway made 
me promise to tell her when I had any news of him." 

If this was the reason for Tony's presence in the house, 
Max wondered why the Otways had not turned to a 
handier source of information. 

“ I always tell you the news whenever there is any," 
he murmured to Auriol. 

“ I know. I didn't ask Mr. Rushforth,” she returned. 
" I detest him. He hasn’t the loyalty ... Oh, Heavens, 
they've started ! ” 

Listening by turn to three different conversations, 
Max felt that his vanity-racked chief would have been 
gratified to know how much interest his return was exciting. 
Colin, with one eye on Tony, was asking Aylwin in an 
undertone if her father meant to let “ the fellow " drive 
him out of politics. Selhurst was enquiring Lady Otway’s 
opinion of the last despatch ; and Tony, seeking an 
unbiassed tribunal, was pressing Lord Otway to tell him 
whether the cabinet was to be reconstructed and whether 
a place would be found in it for Sheridan. Lord Otway, 
abandoning for once his cautious habit of not committing 
himself, replied that Sheridan, of all men, deserved a 
place and that those who had resisted him before could 
not be allowed to stand in his way any longer. 

The tone or the sentiment caused Auriol to look up in 
surprise. 

" A new line for you 1 " she mocked her father. “ I 
thought you said you could never trust him." 

“ My dear ! Spare Mr. Rushforth's feelings," begged 
Lady Otway. 

“ Mr. Rushforth doesn’t trust him either," said Auriol. 

“ Do you ? " she demanded point-blank. 



218 saviours of society 

With the eyes of every one upon him, Tony tried to 
reconcile his early unguarded confidences with a show of 
loyalty. 

“ I may have said he didn’t inspire trust,” he answered 
mildly. “ In others, I meant. He's a business man ; and 
he likes to make the best bargain always. I daresay he 
examines what he puts into a contract more carefully 
than the other man ; then he’s called hard if he stands 
out for his bond. But he’d never default. If he promised 
to do a thing . . .” 

" Would you trust him if he didn't put the promise in 
writing ? ” Auriol interrupted. Then, without waiting 
for an answer, she continued : “I would. But, you see, 
I believe in him. So do you, Max. I can never under¬ 
stand how any one could work for him without believing 
in him, but I know Geoffrey Mallock doesn't. I know 
you don’t, Mr. Rushforth ...” 

” My dear, I don’t think you’re being at all fair to 
poor Mr. Rushforth,” interposed Lady Otway. “ Has 
luncheon been announced ? Oh, well, then . . .” 

As they went downstairs, Max looked intently at 
Auriol’s flushed face, puzzled to discover why, of a sudden, 
she was become so bellicose. Ayhvin Selhurst had perhaps 
made the atmosphere electric by her manner to Tony ; 
but her antagonism was veiled, while Auriol had been 
openly rude. Remembering her confession earlier in the 
summer that they had all got on one another's nerves, 
Max decided that she was suffering from a surfeit of 
family life ; and, as they took their places, he asked how 
soon she could spare a night to dine and go to a theatre 
with him. 

” You think I need rescuing ? " Auriol asked, with her 
eyes on Colin and Selhurst, who were still arguing in the 
doorway. 

“ I was thinkin’ it would be fun for me,” said Max. 
“ Last days of the holidays, you know.” 



THE CURTAIN RISES 


219 

The gracious tone and unpolished phrasing offered 
a noticeable contrast to Auriol’s far more polished phrasing 
and far less gracious tone. 

“ Do you ever think of anything except enjoying 
yourself ? " she asked. 

“ Sometimes." He would have liked to add that he 
thought sometimes how amazingly ill-bred a young 
woman could be and how amazingly difficult it was for 
a fellow not to sink to her level. He checked, partly for 
fear of sinking and partly from a troubled sense that sweet, 
plucky little Auriol must be upset to be lashing out like 
this. “ Sometimes," he repeated. “ I decoded a cable 
this mornin’. I'm goin’ to write some letters this after¬ 
noon. All I meant to say was that, if you could, spare a 
night before Uncle Ambrose comes back ..." 

“ Will you go on working for him ? " Auriol interrupted 

“ Until he's settled down. I know you think I’m 
frightfully slack, but I don't feel justified in leavin’ a 
feller, who’s been uncommon good to me, just when I’m 
beginnin' to be of some use to him. I don’t say I do 
much . . ." 

Auriol’s face suddenly cleared ; and she patted Max’s 
hand gratefully: 

“ But 1 say that's the first whisper of loyalty I've 
heard for a million years. Thank you, Max ! Listen to 
these jackals ! Shall I set a little trap for them ? Mr. 
Rushforth ! Mr. Rushforth / You go about everywhere. 
What do people say about Mr. Sheridan now ? I don t 
mean the mob ; but intelligent people. In clubs. Houses 
where you stay." 

Ill 

So far as Max could see, no one observed that a trap 
was being set. Colin was heard to murmur that, if he 
4 might be regarded as intelligent, he could very soon 
answer the question. Selhurst smiled and waited his turn. 



220 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


Lord Otway, with a long, white hand cupping a pink ear, 
leaned forward, with a comfortable assurance that 
nothing would be said to hurt any one’s feelings. 

Tony frowned pensively and looked round the table to 
determine where the majority lay. To Max, who was 
prejudiced and knew that he was prejudiced, it seemed 
that in the moment of silence Mr. Sheridan’s trustee was 
saying : “ Selhurst and Lady Aylwin loathe him. Otway, 
Lady Otway and the boy won't like me the better for defending 
him. The girl doesn't count. And, though Max Hendry 
may put up a formal protest, he won't repeat what I’ve 
said.” ... So fortified, he assembled and embellished 
the comments that he had collected from a society that 
disliked Ambrose Sheridan more than it admired him 
and feared even more than it disliked. To the speaker’s 
evident surprise, Max made no protest. There was, 
indeed, no opportunity when every moment of silence 
was claimed by Lady Aylwin or Selhurst. In time Colin 
joined in the hunt ; Lord Otway appeared to forget that 
he had ever wished to see Sheridan rewarded and advanced; 
and even Lady Otway murmured her distaste for people 
who persisted in cementing empires and reforming society 
and saving souls. Only Auriol, who had laid the drag, 
refused to ride it. 

“ Very interestin’ show-down,” Max muttered. 

A single voice would have been drowned ; and he 
preferred to hear something that was usually kept from 
him when people remembered he was Sheridan's secretary. 
How they hated the man ! How they distrusted him ! 
The riches he had amassed and the power he had won 
might have been forgiven him if he had employed them 
on their behalf, but he had flirted and passed on. 

” All this reminds me rather of what people said about 
Lloyd-George,” Max whispered to Auriol. “ At one 
moment he was a dirty little Welsh attorney, then he was 
tne man. who won the war, then he became a dirty little 



THE CURTAIN RISES 221 

Welsh attorney again. I could never see it, myself. You 
may like him or not, as you please, but he's always run 
absolutely true to form. So has Sheridan. These good 
souls say he's a fine horse, when they've backed him, 
and a rogue, when they haven’t." 

Auriol shook her head despairingly : 

“ An d these are the people who talk about ‘ uneducated 
mobs ’ ! Listen to daddy ! And six months ago he was 
saying, poor darling, that the City at least seemed to 
believe in Mr. Sheridan. Briskness I Optimism ! And now ! 
It’s always the same ! When I was in my cradle, they were 
calling Mr. Asquith a traitor ; then he was the only 
man who could have brought England into the war, then 
he was a traitor again. Winston and the mobilization. 
Mr. McKenna and the dreadnoughts. Our people abused 
them like pickpockets ; then they said they'd saved the 
country ; then they abused them like pickpockets again. 
We are the stupid party.” 

" I own I think it's silly," said Max. 

“ I think it's vile," said Auriol between her teeth. 

The word carried ; and Lord Otway stopped the hunt 
by suggesting that perhaps they ought not to criticize 
a man who was not present to defend himself. 

“ Though I will say this for Sheridan," he added, “ he 
never minds home-truths. I remember once, when he 
was lunching here, we all began to cross-question him. 

. . You were the worst on that occasion, my dear," 
he reminded Lady Otway. 

Auriol's lips parted ; and, with an instinctive effort 
to save her from saying something which she might 
regret afterwards. Max looked at his watch and stood up. 

" You cornin' my way ? " he asked Tony. “ Good-bye, 
Auriol. If you find you have a free night ..." 

His movement broke up the party ; and, when he 
reached the Square, he found that the young Selhursts 
had joined him. Within the house, an ominous calm 



222 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


descended on the dining-room ; and Lord Otway en¬ 
quired vaguely what every one was going to do that 
afternoon 

“ I’ve letters to write,” Auriol announced with a white 
face. 

“You can’t come out with me ? ” asked Lady Otway 

“Oh, if you like 1 You want to have a talk ? The 
sooner we get it over the better. Shall we begin now, 
or would you like to wait for a full family council ? ” 

“ A family council ? ” Lady Otway echoed. “ I want 
to see those tiresome people about the lamp-shades.” 

“ Won’t that wait ? If you've nothing to say to me, 
I've a lot to say to you all. And, first of all, I can't 
congratulate you on your tactics ! ” 

“ Tactics ? ” murmured Colin. 

Auriol drew herself to her full height and clenched 
her fists. If any one else repeated her words with a 
disingenuous air of surprise, she would explode pre¬ 
maturely. It was safer to say nothing that could be 
repeated. It was safer to say nothing at all, ever. 

“ It will do you much more good to have a little fresh 
air,” said Lady Otway. 

“ All right ! The atmosphere in here is certainly rather 
foul.” 

“ I don’t know that ‘ foul ’ . . .” her mother began in 
gentle protest. 

“ I thought it just described this party ! Poison-gas. 
I did enjoy listening to you all. The moment you got your 
chance ! I gave it you ! I lured you on to say, just for 
once in a while, what you really did think. And now 
I know.” 

“You can’t expect Selhurst or Aylwin to be very 
cordial,” said Lady Otway. “ They do feel that Mr. 
Sheridan has been hitting their father below the belt ” 

“ And Mr. Rushforth ? ” enquired Auriol. 

“ He’d be hardly human if he didn’t feel sore at the 



THE CURTAIN RISES 223 

way his sister has been treated for so many years,” said 
Lord Otway. 

“ How forgiving of him to take a salary from such a 
monster ! Colin, I suppose . . ” 

“ I said what most people would say, Auriol,” her 
brother answered patiently. " You live in a world of your 
own, you make a god of this fellow, you won't listen to 
what anybody tells you. I say he’s a hopeless wrong 'un.” 

All three of them waited for an outburst ; but Auriol 
would only laugh : 

“ You're always saying so, Colin dear ! At least, when¬ 
ever you get the chance, whenever he can't defend himself. 
As an exhibition of chivalry, loyalty . . .” 

” How sick I am of that word ! ” Colin muttered. 
” You think it's shocking for Geoffrey Mallock to find 
fault with your god ; it doesn’t strike you as at all sinister 
that the people who know him best, the people who live 
with him and work with him are the very first to see he’s 
a wrong 'un. They can’t help it. He can’t deceive them." 

“ That's dreadful for him, poor man,” Auriol mocked. 

“ Will you continue to know me if I marry him ? ” 

“ I’m going for a walk,” Colin announced abruptly. 

Auriol waited for the front door to close and then went 
to her own room. Had she troubled to turn her head, she 
would have caught her father signalling : “Go with her 
and see what you can do ” ; had she demeaned herself 
to listen, she must have heard her mother saying : “ I 
can’t do anything with her in her present mood. We 
ought never to have discussed the subject. We’re making 
her think she's his one friend. If he says ‘ You too ? ' 
she’ll follow him blindfold for very shame. After all her 
fine speeches, she can’t do anything else.” 

“ It’s true ! ” Auriol whispered. 

She would never be shamed into anything, she would 
never be afraid to say when she was wrong : that was 
not true It was true, though, that she was the one friend 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


224 

Ambrose Sheridan could trust. Even Max said the fellow 
was a mixture. And Ambrose knew she was the one 
friend he could trust. They had not communicated for 
six months ; they were supposed to be thinking things 
over and deciding whether they were “ still of the same 
mind.” Six months or six years : it made no difference ; 
though the universe abandoned him, he should never 
have cause to say : " You too, Auriol ? " 

IV 

In a fortnight they would be meeting ; in less than a 
fortnight she would hear something from him. 

He had promised to get some message through to her 
as soon as he came within wireless-range. Perhaps he 
would say : “The world's too strong for me. If I'm to 
do any good, I must have the world on my side." Well, 
she would help him as best she could ; it was he who 
talked of inspiration and urged her to marry him ; she 
did not care whether she married him or not, so long as 
she could help him. 

Perhaps he would say : “ These six months have made 
no difference. Did you ever think they could ? " Which¬ 
ever it was, she would have her answer in less than a 
fortnight ; in less than a fortnight she would be released 
from uncertainty, from mystery-making and from the 
spiritual isolation of the last six months. Ever since the 
storm that broke before he sailed, she had been a stranger 
to her family ; she had talked to her friends across an 
unmeasured abyss ; she had been alone even when she 
was with Max or Bobbie Selhurst, the most solitary 
human being in the world except Ambrose himself. 

He, as she divined without being told, was always 
alone. Success had raised him above the generality of his 
fellows ; and, on the narrow peak which he shared with 
men as successful as himself, he remained apart. The 
others were ever on the look-out for a chance to push 



THE CURTAIN RISES 225 

any rival down ; and he had united the others against 
him because he refused to sell them his soul. 

“ The people who live with him and work with him 
are the very first to see he’s a wrong ’nn.” . . . 

Auriol found great difficulty in remaining patient with 
Colin, when he talked like that, or with her father, when 
he said : “ I should like to see him in the cabinet, but it’s 
certainly unfortunate that people seem to distrust him so 
much.” Of course they distrusted him ! Had he not 
spoken and voted during half a dozen years in a way 
that made the label-mongers acclaim or dismiss him in 
turn as liberal, labour, conservative ? To their mean, 
dark minds did he not stand revealed as a man who 
would turn his coat and betray his party for preferment ? 
When he disclaimed the obsession of party, was he not 
advertising the obsession of self ? None of them believed 
him, none of them listened when he said : “ I voted 
labour because I was profoundly dissatisfied with the present 
state of society and saw no hope of improvement from 
liberals or conservatives. I have since voted against labour 
because labour has disappointed me and I am as much 
dissatisfied as ever with the present state of society.” To 
Colin, you were a traitor to your class if you paid super¬ 
tax and failed to vote conservative ; you were a traitor 
to your party if you failed in an allegiance which you 
had never sworn ; and you were a traitor to your country 
if you put the interests of the state before the interests 
of a party. 

And so Ambrose Sheridan was always alone, always 
suspect. 

Auriol tried to picture him on the Koh-i-nor, facing 
eastward for the last four thousand miles of his voyage. 
He was alone, though every cabin was filled ; alone, 
though he was surrounded by an army of colleagues. 
In England he was alone when he sat on a crowded bench 
at Westminster, alone when he dictated orders to his 



226 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

staff, alone when he came home to a wife who had some¬ 
how dropped out of his life. No one enjoyed his con¬ 
fidence, no one shared his troubles. No one met him as 
an equal, to advise or chide or banter him. And sometimes, 
he had told her, this isolation frightened him : the 
surrounding coldness and silence made him wonder if 
the rest of the world was dead ; and sometimes he 
wondered whether he was going mad. 

Auriol walked to her writing-table and studied her 
calendar. He would be within wireless-range of England 
several days before the end of the fortnight. Their 
common loneliness would be ended by his message, but, 
before he could send it, she wanted to hail him across 
that infinite expanse of water and to let him know that 
she was waiting for him. 

“ If you want me . . .” she whispered. “ Still of the 
same mind ? Yes ! You’ll never have to say * You too, 
Auriol?’ You need never feel lonely again ...” 

She began to write him a letter, then stopped with a 
puzzled sense that she had said all she had to say. It 
was a sentimental fancy, doubtless, but her message 
seemed to be already on its way to him. He would receive 
it, had received it already and knew that she was pledged. 
Five o’clock in London : what time would it be in 
Bridgetown or in the position, twenty-four hours out 
from Bridgetown, where the Koh-i-nor was now ? Where 
was Ambrose ? What was he doing ? How did he look ? 

She pictured him in a duck suit and a sun-helmet, 
towering over every one else. He was pacing the deck 
by himself, with his head thrust forward and his hands 
locked behind his back. Every one was watching him, 
every one was trying to get into conversation with him. 
And, listening to the whisper of her message, he was 
deaf and blind to them all. . . . 

At the sound of gentle tapping, Auriol roused from her 
reverie. Five o’clock in London. Tea had been taken 



THE CURTAIN RISES 227 

into the drawing-room ; and the butler was asking 
whether she would have hers there or in her own room. 

“ Oh, there," she answered. 

An hour before, it would have seemed impossible for 
her to meet the family again, but in some way that she 
could not define the family had ceased to matter. 

V 

“ I used to think,” Auriol wrote in her diary that night, 
“ I was cut out for a parliamentary career. I've discovered 
I'm not. I'm not cut out for anything where there's suspense. 
For the last six months I’ve been stretched on a rack; and 
this evening, for the first time, I can think calmly, see 
clearly and behave like a rational being. The suspense is 
over. I've made up my mind. As regards the family, I’ve 
said to myself what I shall probably have to say later to them 
(daddy’s favourite phrase!): ‘ We must agree to differ.’ 
We can’t argue ; and I for one am not going to fight. 
Assuming that A. is still of the same mind, I shall tell him 
I haven’t changed and that I’m ready for us to be shot at 
together, even though I think it’s rather childish for any one 
to shoot at us. If only his wife had divorced him ten years 
ago, what a peck of trouble we should all be spared now ! 

“ I shan’t pretend that the family won’t fight like tigers. 
I've noticed that people who uphold free love never want 
to see their daughters trying it; and the people who say 
a divorce is better than a loveless marriage never care to 
try the experiment near home. I feel that myself: I should 
be miserable if Imogen or Joyce went through the divorce- 
court. I should hate it if they married a man who’d been 
advertised as being unfaithful. I hope that’s honest enough ! 

I can’t be surprised if they hate the idea of my marrying 
A. after a divorce. In addition, daddy and mummie both 
feel he’s too old for me, though daddy’s fifteen years older 
than mummie and A. is only twenty years older than me 
and extraordinarily young for his age. Colin is opposed 



228 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

on different grounds: in his heart I'm afraid he despises 
A. because he wasn’t at a public school and all that sort 
of thing. Not daring to say so in words, he pretends A. is 
an unscrupulous adventurer. I’m afraid I cant cope with 
prejudice of that kind. 

“ What Imogen and Joyce really think I can’t guess. 
I believe they got it into their heads that A. wanted to take 
advantage of ‘ poor little Auriol’s ’ youth and innocence; 
and now, when they find his intentions are strictly honour¬ 
able, they go on opposing from sheer force of habit. 

“ Yes, there will certainly be a colossal row ; but I’m 
of age and no one can stop me. In time I hope the darlings 
will see that they were just the least little bit prejudiced. 
That's not what I started out to say, though. I know to¬ 
night for the first time that, if A. still wants me, I shall go 
to him. In other words, I may be more or less engaged in 
a couple of weeks and married within a year. This is always 
supposed to be a very solemn time in a girl's life ; and 
I'm trying to think out what my feelings are. If I’m to 
be honest at all costs, I must say I think the whole business 
is over-rated. More than that, I believe our elders and 
betters, without meaning it, are sentimental hypocrites: 
they say a thing's solemn because they think it ought to be 
solemn to us, not because they felt it was solemn when they 
were our age. I was frightfully disappointed over my 
confirmation, frightfully disappointed over my first com¬ 
munion : I was trying to pump more solemnity into myself 
than I was capable of holding. When I go to communion 
now, in a big church, I'm always miserable in the endless 
time after I’ve received the sacraments. Other people are 
on their knees, praying, but I've finished all I have to say 
in about two minutes. Am I more irreligious or frivolous 
than other people ? Do other people repeat themselves ? 
or is there a good deal of sham about the whole business ? 

“ I certainly can’t feel solemn now, not personally . 
I believe that A has it in his power to effect the happiness 



THE CURTAIN RISES 


229 

of millions of people ; and that's a very solemn thought. 
I believe I can help him. That's a solemn thought and 
a very great responsibility. I'll put on record here and now 
that I’ll work myself to the bone to ' inspire ’ him, as he 
calls it, to keep him up to the mark, to make him happy, 
to take care of him, sinking myself and giving every ounce 
of whatever constitutes Auriol Otway to helping. In dear 
old Max’s beloved phrase ‘you cant say fairer nor that.’ 
It's a solemn thought that I must fight to get my way. The 
family will come round in time ; but family quarrels always 
leave scars, you’re never quite the same afterwards. 

“ I cannot, try as I may, be solemn about any other 
aspect of marriage. A. and I are entering into partnership ; 
and I hope were married before a registrar. The marriage- 
service, frankly, disgusts me. Thank Heaven I wasn't born 
in the days when mothers whispered in their daughters 
ears the day before the ceremony. I knew all that I needed 
when I was eight; and I learnt it at the home-farm. Thank 
goodness we no longer say ' an event is expected,’ when we 
mean somebody’s going to have a baby! I really believe 
we’re becoming slightly more sensible in one or two 
ways. And, as we sweep away the artificial mysteries, 
we see—we must see—that marriage and child-bearing 
have been given a sentimental and grossly exaggerated 
importance. When I marry A., I become his wife and 
the mother of his children. That’s part of my job, like 
sitting at the head of his table ; I don’t give it another 
thought. 

“ A far more ticklish question is one that most people 
wouldn’t call solemn at all: I've no idea what to talk to A. 
about when we’re alone. I don’t know whether we read the 
same books or have the same tastes ; I know extraordinarily 
little about his life or, indeed, about him. It doesn’t do 
to dwell on this too much, though, or I shall find myself 
using some of Colin’s pet phrases about ' different stan¬ 
dards’, 1 difference of upbringing. A. doesn’t eat peas with 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


230 

his knife. I shouldn't greatly care if he did. It's much more 
dangerous and much less dirty than eating asparagus with 
your fingers. And whatever he likes to talk about couldn't 
be worse than the number of pounds one horse gave another 
at Catterick Bridge. Oh, that week at Conway House l 
I'm devoted to Max and to his father, but that just about 
finished me. 

“ My main feeling at ‘ this solemn moment in a young 
girl’s life ' is that marriage is quite easy if you do your best, 
keep yourself in the background, avoid sentiment as the 
devil avoids holy water and keep the temperature low. It’s 
difficult to do that sometimes, because men think you’re 
heartless or frivolous. When Max and I pretended to be 
engaged, he was much more serious than I was. And, when 
I laughed at him, he became almost melodramatic and said 
I was very young, a time would come, I didn’t realize 
the meaning of passion and so on. 

“ Poor old Max! I hope he won’t take it to heart when 
I tell him. He can’t say he hasn’t been warned. . . .” 



PART THREE 


CHAPTER I 

What The Day Brings 


“ No doubt, you, good young lady that you are, 

Despite a natural naughtiness or two, 

Turn eyes up like a Pradier Magdalen 

And see an outspread providential hand 

Above the owl’s-wing aigrette—guard and guide— 

Visibly o’er your path, about your bed, 

Through all your practisings with London town. 

It points, you go ; it stays fixed, and you stop ; 

You quicken its procedure by a word 
Spoken, a thought in silence, prayer and praise. 

Well, I believe that such a hand may stoop, 

And such appeals to it may stave off harm, 

Pacify the grim guardian of this Square, 

And stand you in good stead on quarter-day ...” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohensliel-Schwattgatt, 

Saviour of Society. 

I 

W HEN the Koh-i-nor came within wireless-range of 
England, the first place on a long waiting-list 
had been secured in advance for the head of the mission. 
His message was in code, addressed to Max Hendry; 
and the wireless-operator seemed professionally hurt 
when Miss Colthurst explained that an acknowledgement 
would be despatched and that Mr. Sheridan would like 
to have it without delay. 

“ He doesn't leave anything to chance," muttered the 
operator. 


231 



232 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“ If he did, he wouldn’t be where he is now,” answered 
Miss Colthurst. 

” I’ll give you the reply as soon as I get it,” the operator 
promised ; and Miss Colthurst departed in search of her 
deck-chair. " That girl will wear herself out, if she’s not 
careful,” he added sarcastically. “ She’s actually done a 
job of work ; handed in a message, paid for it, counted 
the change. ... If I felt equal to it, I should chuck this 
job and get taken on as a private secretary.” 

While Miss Colthurst’s justification for existence was 
debated for the hundredth time in the wireless-room, 
Miss Colthurst abandoned herself to the pleasure of 
existence without attempting to justify it. Of all the 
mission she was the one member who had enjoyed every 
moment of the last six months. Even the typists, with 
homes on the sunless outskirts of drab cities, who would 
never again travel farther than Margate, were turning 
from their last sight of regal bougainvillea and blazing 
hibiscus to mutter wearily : “ Only a fortnight more.” 

In the early days, when the world and her life stretched 
to infinity beyond the narrow horizon of the hour, Evelyn 
Colthurst too had thought of home. The tale she had to 
tell needed an audience ; and half her delight came from 
the contrast between the measureless spaces which she 
was skimming like a bird and the dark cage in which, 
like a bird, she had been imprisoned for twenty years. 
The other half came from an ill-defined sense of achieve¬ 
ment : she had set a titan on fire, she was valued as she 
deserved. Instead of gazing forlornly at clothes and 
jewels that must always be out of her reach, she was 
made to feel that the softest silk, the richest furs were 
hardly good enough to touch her precious body. She 
existed to be adorned, caressed, worshipped ; the work 
of her life was to please. All this she had achieved on 
her merits, starting with no more advantage than a 
thousand other girls ; and she had achieved it at no cost 



WHAT THE DAY BRINGS 


233 


to herself. Envied she might be, but never despised, as 
she had once feared ; hardly even suspected, rather taken 
at face value. “ Mr. Sheridan s personal secretary ” ; 
that was good enough in itself. 

“ Saucy lot, those wireless boys,” she murmured in 
tentative resentment. 

Then she fell to pitying them. Once, during her annual 
holiday at Bexhill, she had half thought of marrying one 
of them ; and in those days it had seemed a fair match 
and more than a fair escape. They were officers, with 
uniforms. Now . . . 

Now Evelyn felt she could not resent the curiosity 
which she aroused. 

II 

It was indeed quite amusing that nobody, inside the 
mission or among those they met, could explain her. 

In dress, in speech and in the discrimination which she 
made between the different social grades of the mission, 
she was much more Sheridan’s friend than his secretary. 
When the typists were sent to an hotel, she was always 
accommodated with the personal staff at Government 
House ; and her visible secretarial duties, apart from any 
private work she might do, were confined to carrying 
from one room to another what Sheridan had written 
for some one else to type. Her own costly clothes and 
white hands were never subjected to the danger and 
indignity of work. At first the other girls had murmured 
against her; but, when it was understood that she was 
not dependent on a salary, their jealousy of her privileged 
position turned to admiration for the way she exploited 
it. In all probability she was “doing the government , 
she had “ wangled a good thing for herself ”. 

When the cynic voice of Geoffrey Mallock enquired 
why Sheridan should go out of his way to oblige her, 
she hinted boldly that she was an old friend of the family. 



234 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

Growing fertile in imagination, she added that she had 
always wanted to travel, but that it was difficult for a 
girl to travel alone and more difficult to find a friend with 
the necessary leisure and means. Whether Mallock was 
convinced she never knew, but a legend sprang up that 
she was being shewn the world in return for the nominal 
services of arranging Mr. Sheridan’s parties and writing 
his private letters. In their travels they were always 
meeting girls who were coming out to keep house for 
their relations or to be given “ a good time ” for three 
months. It was easier to believe that she was one of 
these than that the head of a government mission, being 
entertained by the king's representatives and living under 
sleepless observation, should dare to flout the opinion 
of the world. 

“ Unless he thinks it’s so fantastic that he can do it 
with impunity,” reflected Mallock, who had given many 
weeks of thought and observation to the superficially 
refined and innately common “ personal secretary ” 
without being able to make up his mind what to think 
of her. 

“ Nearly home now, Miss Colthurst,” he called out, 
when he found her pulling a chair towards the door of the 
wireless-room. 

“ Oo yes ! Worse luck ! ” she answered. 

“ Um. I shan’t be sorry to be back in England, though 
it was worth it." 

As he passed on to complete his daily total of fifteen 
times round the deck, Evelyn sank into reverie. Worth 
it ? Of course it was ! She had never harboured a doubt 
till that morning when Mr. Sheridan gave her the message 
to despatch : Hendry Rotarius London Poinsettia Sheridan; 
they were in communication by relay with Devizes. 
Now she realized that everything was coming to an end. 
He would see her later to "discuss arrangements”, 
whatever that might mean, and she felt heavy-hearted. 



WHAT THE DAY BRINGS 


235 

Worth it ? She would have liked a translation of " poin- 
settia”. Did it stand for: “ Arriving Friday advise 
Colonial Office and Mrs. Sheridan meet me Southampton ” ? 
After all this time together, she had a right to be told; 
but during six months at sea and six months before that 
in England Mr. Sheridan had told her nothing. She 
followed at heel, like a shadow, and was given no more 
of his confidence than a shadow enjoyed. It was worth 
it, in spite of that. Poinsettia. . . . Did that mean, 
ultimately and when they had discussed their arrange¬ 
ments, that they would have to part for a time at 
Southampton ? It would be an abrupt end, but no more 
abrupt than the beginning. Twelve months ago . . . 

A murmur of voices floated to her from the wireless- 
room, punctuating the vibrant crackle of the transmitter. 
The curtain over the doorway was drawn aside ; and Mr. 
Sheridan straightened his long back and nodded to her. 
Had he been satisfying himself that the message was 
despatched, leaving nothing to chance ? It must be very 
important! 

“ The Azores on Monday, with luck," he told her. 

" I wish it wasn’t the end," she sighed. 

Sheridan smiled indulgently and strode away, turning 
to call back, in his "employer’s voice”, that he would 
not require her until the afternoon. Worth it ? At an 
hour like this, when the sun was hot before the brown 
decks were dry for their late scrubbing, she wondered 
how she could ever have hesitated. Lying in a white 
silk jumper and skirt, with her bare arms folded behind 
her head, she looked over one infinity of rippling blue 
sea to a second infinity of unclouded blue sky, the whole 
so silent and majestic that it might have belonged to a 
dream. More than once, in the last year, Evelyn had 
been tempted—in the threadbare drapery of her rare 
fancies—to " pinch herself and make sure she was 
awake." If any one had told her, eighteen months ago, 



236 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

that she was destined to travel round the world, first- 
class, with her own bathroom and a stewardess who was 
to all intents and purposes her maid, she would have 
crushed the prophetess with a racy retort acquired in the 
days before she became a lady. Eighteen months ago . . . 

Eighteen months ago she was living at Enfield and 
working in the offices of Andrew Livingstone, Fanshaw 
and Company, solicitors, of Coleman Street, in the City 
of London. She was—incredible thought !—glad of the 
job, for the utmost charity of her school could not strain 
itself to call her more than “ slow She owed her position 
to the frightened urgency of her father, who begged 
Mr. Andrew Livingstone to take pity on a girl who was 
honest and willing, even if parental love could not call 
her intelligent. Mr. Colthurst, for thirty years the un¬ 
aspiring cashier of the firm, had reached the stage in his 
career at which the partners, reviewing the annual 
applications for increase of salary, always said : “ He's 
not worth another penny. If he thinks he is, he can try 
elsewhere.” The cashier accepted his yearly rebuff 
with the resignation of long practice : he knew, and the 
partners knew-, that he was too timid for a mutiny, too 
stupid for a fraud; and the transitory qualm that 
assailed both sides at the end of every year was satis¬ 
factorily set at rest when Mr. Colthurst begged that his 
daughter should be given a trial as “general clerk”. 

Within a week the general clerk had been converted 
into a general messenger. Evelyn’s looks, on her first 
day in Coleman Street, caused one patrician client to 
say : “ Girls in that class have no business to be so pretty ”; 
and the hearts of the younger clerks began to be inflamed 
to the detriment of their work. Thereafter Evelyn was 
only seen in Coleman Street when she signed the attend¬ 
ance-book or returned from one mission to collect papers 
before setting out on the next. The new life pleased her 
better than the old in that she now spent half her time 



WHAT THE DAY BRINGS 237 

seeing London from the top of an omnibus and the other 
half being seen, with undisguised admiration, by barristers’ 
clerks, by barristers and occasionally by lay clients. 
It was on a mission of this kind that Evelyn first met 
Ambrose Sheridan. 

Cleveland Row. . . . After all these months she could 
still recall her excitement on being sent there with a 
bundle of transfers. Mr. Sheridan—she was made to 
repeat his name—had to sign each in the place where his 
initials were marked in pencil; as a witness was required, 
she must actually see him signing. 

“ And then come straight back here," snapped the 
sour old commissionaire, making a note of the time. 
“ No fooling round West-End shops.” 

In fact, Evelyn never went back to the prison in Coleman 
Street, but even now, after eighteen months, she was 
undecided whether she had not missed something by not 
going back to tell the sour old commissionaire that she 
was never coming back. He was probably there still, 
in his little glass box, with his old steel spectacles on his 
old nose! . . . 

Ill 

Throughout her journey from Coleman Street, Evelyn 
had ransacked her memories of film-settings for an ade¬ 
quate vision of Cleveland Row. 

Double doors, she decided, would be flung open by 
powdered footmen in knee-breeches. She would enter 
a vast marble hall, with a fountain in the middle. After 
wading through a yielding desert of rich rugs, she would 
see a huge, double writing-table at the end of a book- 
lined room. At her approach Mr. Sheridan would draw 
himself to his full height; and Evelyn had not surrep¬ 
titiously fingered the illustrated papers on the railway 
book-stalls without becoming acquainted with Mr. 
Sheridan's giant form. He would bow and say : Pray 



238 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

be seated.” Perhaps he would offer her tea ; and Evelyn 
experienced an agony of mortification when she realized 
how shabby her cheap clothes would look against that 
splendid background. 

Even now, after all these months, she remembered her 
shame. She remembered, too, a feeling of confused 
resentment that some girls, without half her looks, 
should be born to enjoy, as of right, rich food and beautiful 
clothes and parties and everything that made life worth 
living. She was herself a clerk's daughter ; she could 
look forward to marrying a clerk ; and, if she were 
foolish enough to have children, they would be clerks. 
Enfield for one generation after another. At home she 
was precluded from ventilating her discontent lest her 
father, borrowing Mr. Livingstone's annual challenge, 
should say again : “ If you think you can do better else¬ 
where, you're welcome to try." Evelyn had tried and 
failed : tried with a firm of film-producers, who bustled 
her to the front of the waiting line as soon as they saw 
her ; she had failed within an hour, when a husky manager 
roared in frenzy : “ She's half-witted ! Take her away ! 
She doesn’t understand a word I’m saying.” 

After that, Evelyn confined herself to less ambitious 
flights, abandoning the film-studio for the dream-life 
that was represented there. Why should she pretend, 
when she had a chance to be ? Every theatre, every 
serial pointed the way. She was not clever, but she was 
beautiful ; and, when a girl was beautiful, there was 
always some god-like man with a square jaw and curly 
hair who insisted on marrying her (The duke, his father, 
might raise ineffectual opposition ; she might even break 
off her engagement and disappear ; but the duchess 
would bring her to the bedside of her languishing boy, 
with the magnanimous admission that she was as good 
as she was beautiful). After her failure in the studio, 
Evelyn hunted assiduously from her omnibus-top for 



WHAT THE DAY BRINGS 239 

god-like men with stem, strong profiles. She was still 
hunting when she reached the bottom of the Haymarket 
and a constable directed her to Cleveland Row. 

Eighteen months ago. . . . 

Evelyn walked to the side of the ship and watched the 
gambolling of a school of porpoises. After a year and a 
half it was still impossible to think of that time without 
a little shiver. Truth to tell, she had never allowed 
herself to think of it : her twenty years of life could be 
expressed in two pictures, the first against a background 
of Enfield, with the Coleman Street office in the centre 
and a dynasty of clerks passing in at one door and out 
at another. The second picture was framed on the boat- 
deck of a liner in mid-Atlantic, between blue sea and 
sky, with a long chair in the middle and, in the chair, 
a slender white form. She had never, till now, brooded 
over the transition ; but Ambrose Sheridan, with his 
talk of "arrangements to make", forced her to pass the 
last eighteen months in review. Was it worth it ? She 
had decided at the time that it would be ; but was it ? 

" That depends on the 4 arrangements ’,” Evelyn 
whispered helplessly. 

In looking back, she felt that helplessness had been 
her constant attitude ever since the butler shewed her 
into Sheridan’s study. There had been no powdered 
footmen, no fountain in the hall; and, before she had 
time to notice the carpet or the book-lined walls, an 
impatient hand was snatching the transfers from her 
grasp and an impatient voice muttering " D'liver this 
my act deed. Next one ! Ambrose Sheridan. D'liver 
this my act deed. Next . . ." Then the mutter had 
ceased and the racing hand had paused. As though 
conscious for the first time that she was not a machine, 
Sheridan changed his tone to ask : 

" What’s happened to the clerk Livingstone usually 
sends here ? A red-haired boy ? ” 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


240 

“ He's left,” Evelyn answered. 

" I don’t wonder. No life for a boy of any parts : 
dashing about London with papers to sign. Have you 
had any tea ? ” 

For a moment Evelyn could not speak : this was 
what she had dreamed, but her dreams had never come 
true. 

“ I shall get some when I’ve taken these papers back,” 
she heard herself saying. 

Sheridan picked up his pen ; and, at the first faint 
scratch, his mind once more seemed to forget her. 

“ No life,” he repeated. “ D’liver this my act deed. 
Dashing about London. It’s no life for you,” he added 
abruptly. 

Evelyn looked deliberately round the long expanse of 
wire-fronted book-cases. No reply seemed to be expected 
of her ; but she found the gaze of his steady grey eyes 
disconcerting. 

“ It’s better than a stuffy office,” she put in, as the 
silence and his penetrating scrutiny set her flushing. 

“ Oh, possibly. You could do better for yourself, 
though. Take off that hat.” 

Unable to disobey, even if she had been so minded, 
Evelyn laid her hat on a chair and tried to cover her 
embarrassment with a smile as she tidied her hair. 
Sheridan examined her points coolly and critically, as 
though she had been a horse : the tapering, white hands 
against the loosely coiled dark hair, the big eyes and 
wistful mouth, the rounded neck in which she could feel 
strange pulses hammering, the bosom that rose and fell 
as he guessed at her shoulders and arms. This was more 
frightening than anything she had experienced in the 
film-studio ; but in some way it was exhilarating. He 
approved of her hair and skin ; of her teeth, when she 
smiled ; of her ankles when he looked down to see if 
her feet were as shapely as her hands. Evelyn had heard 



WHAT THE DAY BRINGS 241 

that people liked contrasts ; and, when he stood up to 
ring for tea, she wondered whether this ruddy giant 
was attracted by her smooth whiteness and fragility. 

I must take these back to the office,” she ventured, 
extending her hand for the transfers. 

“ I’ll send ’em by registered post. Are you happy at 
your office ? Would you like to come as my secretary ? ” 

” But . . . I’ve no experience ! ” Evelyn gasped. 

“ I’m snowed under with experienced people. All you 
need is . . . discretion. Perfectly discreet people see 
little and say less and never ask questions. Discretion 
is highly valued and highly rewarded. Are you dis¬ 
creet ? ” 

“ I . . . hope so, I'm sure,” she answered, shuffling 
one foot against the other. 

“ Discretion and loyalty are the only two things I 
require. The work . . .” Sheridan smiled to himself. 
“ You would find the life interesting. My duties throw 
me up against all sorts and conditions of men in all parts 
of the world.” His eyes travelled again to the floor ; 
and Evelyn found herself involuntarily trying to hide 
her shoes from his unsparing scrutiny. " Everything 
would be found for you, of course. A complete rig-out. 

I don’t want you ever to feel you need envy any other 
woman her clothes. When we travel,” he added casually, 

” it will be only . . . my discreet secretary and myself.” 

IV 

It was the casual tone that overpowered Evelyn. 

This was the way that handsome, rich, unscrupulous 
men tempted poor girls in film-stories ; and poor girls 
defended their virtue by striking such men in the face, 
or had their virtue defended for them by opportune 
rescuers with square chins and curly hair. Evelyn always 
applauded the caption which proclaimed: you are 

INSULTING A PURE WOMAN AND YOU SHALL PAY FOR IT 1 

Q 



242 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

In her dream-life she had played the part a hundred times ; 
but, now that the dream was become actual, she could 
only stammer: 

“ I ... I don't know what you mean.” 

“ Rubbish ! ” retorted Sheridan. 

In the silence that followed, she watched him toying 
with a note-case and caught the rustle of bank-paper. 
With sudden resolution she reached for her hat. Sheridan 
smiled and tossed the case on to the table. 

“ Come here ! ” he ordered ; and, when she hesitated, 
he caught her wrist and drew her to him. “ I’m not a bad 
sort,” he muttered into her hair. “ You needn’t be 
frightened of me. Tell me what your name is ! Evelyn ? 
You’re going to have the time of your life, Evelyn. 
Always take what the day brings. Discretion : that’s 
the only thing. Now your first job is to tell the office 
you’re coming to me. Then the new rig-out. Get the 
best that’s to be got, but don’t go in for anything too 
flowery : in the eyes of the world you’re my secretary 
. . . Now, you’re not going to cry I ” 

“ I can’t help it ! ” Evelyn sobbed, though she never 
knew then or eighteen months later why she had cried. 

It was not in conscious regret or fear, for she made no 
attempt to escape ; and, looking back, she felt none of 
the righteous indignation which she expected of a film- 
heroine. It was not in defence of her threatened virtue, 
because she knew that her virtue was only another name 
for her fear, though she felt he might have hesitated 
rather longer before demolishing her picture of a pure 
woman insulted. She cried as one of those who can only 
express emotion by tears and cry equally from happiness 
and misery, fatigue and surprise. Sheridan pressed her 
close to him with one arm, while the other hand stroked 
her neck and shoulders. He dried her eyes with a big 
silk handkerchief; and she roused to find him kissing 
her lips. 



243 


WHAT THE DAY BRINGS 

Later, they dined in a vast and glittering room, sur¬ 
rounded by uncanny men who moved without noise and 
watched without ceasing. Evelyn drank a yellow wine 
of winking bubbles. It made her cough at first ; and her 
head swam. Then she felt happily reckless, then sad 
and rather sick. When Sheridan put her into a taxi, 
she longed to tell him that their evening was a mistake 
and a bad dream : he refused to let her cry again ; in 
the moment when she felt care-free and amusing, he had 
winced at her changed speech and bearing. Nothing 
she could do was right: it could never be worth while. 

“ Discretion,” he repeated as his final injunction. 

“I can’t . . Evelyn began. 

“ Too late now, my dear,” he laughed unsympathetic¬ 
ally. 

Was it worth while ? 

“ The Azores on Monday, with luck .” They were 
returning. With luck ? In taking what the day brought, 
she had never thought whether her adventure would 
seem worth while on the morrow: in setting out, she 
had never pictured the return. 

It was worth while, in the early days, to flout her 
bewildered parents and to “ hand old Livingstone 
Fanshaw the bag,” then to drive from shop to shop, 
telling the taxi-man to wait; it was worth while, when 
she was asked if she would pay cash, to drawl—like these 
other costly creatures—" my account ” ; it was worth 
while, as her parcels were tied up, to observe the red 
hands and blunt fingers, the flat chests and bending backs 
of the girls who served her. 

” Moddom is going abroad ? ” one asked superfluously, 
as Evelyn experimented with sun-helmets. 

In her now unremitting pursuit of gentility, Evelyn 
had refrained from the beguiling sarcasm of explaining 
that she wanted the sun-helmet to protect her from 
November fogs in London. Such a retort belonged to 



244 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

the growing category of things which Ambrose Sheridan 
denounced as “ cheap.” 

“ Only for six months,” she answered and experienced 
a fierce delight in the girl’s little gasp of envy. 

The gasp ended in a cough ; and no one could say 
where the cough would end. Yes, it was worth while 
so long as she felt that she was getting good value ; 
and good value it was to order these girls about and set 
them lifting and carrying till their thin arms ached. 
It was good value to think that one of them, as she 
coughed her way home to Enfield or whithersoever, 
would look down from the top of her omnibus in search 
of a dream-prince and weave an artless epic wherein she 
too ordered herself a six-months’ outfit of clothes for a 
casual voyage round the world. Evelyn exhausted her 
ingenuity in causing trouble to waiters and stewards 
until that joy, too, was condemned as “cheap”. 

Life was abundantly worth while from the moment 
when she mounted the gangway at Tilbury. The ship, 
the passengers, the games and dances with the officers, 
the admiration which she and her clothes aroused: 
this was very heaven ; and to one pair of eyes the leaden 
Channel sparkled with blue light and the grey sky shone 
with a sun which no one else saw. Before her delight had 
time to grow jaded, it was refreshed with beauty and 
romance such as a blind man could relish from hearsay: 
the great Rock of Gibraltar, Toulon and the Chateau 
d'lf, Taranto, Suez and the Indian Ocean. Day after 
day, as she gazed over a landless sea, her heart knew 
only thankfulness. Sheridan, as he said of himself, was 
“ not a bad sort ” ; and by now she had learned his 
ways and could pass effortlessly from the tenderest 
endearments to the coldest formality. He became ill- 
humoured when she talked to other men ; but, if Evelyn 
felt bored when he disappeared for hours at a time with 
one of his other secretaries, he included her, as a com- 



WHAT THE DAY BRINGS 245 

pensation, in all the festivities that were organized for 
him on shore ; and, while he sat closeted with officials, 
she was taken sight-seeing by aides-de-camp. By ex¬ 
plaining impressively that she was a personal private 
secretary, Sheridan secured her invitations and exempted 
her from work. 

Bombay ; Calcutta ; and all the wonderland between ; 
Colombo ; Rangoon ; and Singapore. By now, Evelyn 
had followed Sheridan’s advice and was taking what the 
day brought. At first she had occasionally wondered 
whether she was being very wicked ; but her conscience 
refused to upbraid her. In theory, of course, every girl 
should be as morbidly virtuous as the heroines of the 
films ; her mother had lectured her fierce!}' before allowing 
her to enter the Coleman Street office ; and the parsons, 
given a chance, would always prose about sin. When 
once her new life had lost its strangeness, Evelyn could 
see nothing wrong in it : many more girls would do as 
she had done if they were not ignorantly afraid of the 
consequences ; as the papers were always asking, why 
should there be one rule for men and another for women ? 
If a public man like Sheridan could do as he pleased . . . 

At this point Evelyn usually set herself to think of 
something else. It was a shock, though she ought not to 
have felt it, when she realized that others had filled her 
present place in Sheridan’s life. She was fancying that 
she in her turn had overwhelmed him ; when he was 
enslaved, she wanted him to many her. Thereafter he 
ceased to be a figure of romance and became merely a 
rich man of uncurbed appetites ; she feared that she 
was no longer a figure of romance to him and wondered 
where he would place her in the long catalogue of women 
who had attracted him. She wondered, too, what had 
happened to the others, but that was an imprudent line 
of speculation : perfectly discreet people, she recollected, 
saw little, said less and never asked questions. She was 



246 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

so discreet that she hardly wondered about anything 
and was startlingly compelled to reconsider all her 
theories of right and wrong when she heard that Ambrose 
Sheridan had been married for twenty years and that his 
wife was still living. 


V 

The information was tossed to her by Miss Mellor, the 
principal typist, as the Koh-i-nor left New Zealand for 
Panama and England. Miss Mellor wondered whether 
“ things " would have blown over by the time they got 
back. 

“ Why, you aren’t giving out you don’t know, are 
you ? ” she enquired incredulously, when Evelyn asked 
what “ things ” she meant. “ It started within a month 
of the time you came ; and it was going on under your 
eyes. Mark you, I don’t know anything. I’m only putting 
two and two together, as the saying is. You’ve heard 
of this Miss Otway ? ” 

“ No,” said Evelyn blankly. 

“ Ah ! Well, I daresay I shouldn’t have, either, if 
the lines hadn’t got crossed one day when he was 
'phoning. I must begin at the beginning, I can see.” 

Was it worth while ? Of Miss Mellor’s barbed con¬ 
fidences was born Evelyn’s first doubt. Where did she 
come in ? Mr. Sheridan was married to one woman, in 
love with another ; and yet they could not mean much 
when he packed up for six months and went away with 
a third. When they stood ranged in line, one was taken 
and two were left. If there was a meaning in any¬ 
thing ... He must belong to her, as she to him, though 
she had never tested her grip. Once or twice, when his 
mood was tender, she had prayed ecstatically that this 
dream-life might continue for ever. He never promised 
that it should. Once or twice she had framed questions 
that he could not avoid answering. He had always 



WHAT THE DAY BRINGS 247 

contrived to leave them unanswered, cheating her of 
even the dreadful certainty that came to haunt her when 
she could not sleep. And now, when they were within 
wireless range of England, she knew only what she chose 
to imagine from an unintelligible code. 

A clatter of feet in the wireless-room broke in on her 
troubled reverie. The curtain was pulled aside ; and the 
chief operator, his sleeves rolled up to reveal hairy, 
tattooed arms, leaned out with a form in his hand. 

“ I suppose you were waiting,” he hazarded. ” Are 
you going down, or shall I take it ? ” 

“ I will,” answered Evelyn, trying not to snatch the 
paper from his hand. 

“ Message received Hendry ,” she read, as she turned to 
the companion-way. 

Mr. Sheridan was pacing up and down the sitting-room 
next to his cabin and dictating rapidly to Miss Mellor. 
Without looking at the message, he waved his hand 
vaguely towards a chair. 

” Now," he muttered five minutes later as Miss Mellor 
gathered up her papers. ” This is just the acknowledge¬ 
ment ? Thank you. . . . Oh, don’t go for a minute, 
Miss Colthurst! I wanted to ask you . . .” He waited 
for the door to close and sat down on the table, swinging 
one leg. “ Have you enjoyed it ? ” he asked. ” I told 
you I wasn't a bad sort.” 

For some reason that she could not define, Evelyn 
was afraid to trust her voice. Whether he had made 
her happy mattered less than that he had made himself 
indispensable to her. Other men might dominate her as 
overwhelmingly, but no other man could be like this 
one, the first in her experience ; to no other could she 
give what she had given him. A bad fellow ? He hurt 
her pride when he shewed her too patently that she was 
a female without soul or spirit, heart or brain, feelings or 
temperament; a female without position or importance ; 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


248 

but a female with a market-price which he was wantonly 
exceeding. She would not have minded a little unkindness 
if it made him more human by blotting the neat lines of 
their contract. 

Catching his hand between her own, she smiled up at 
him with tear-dimmed eyes, offering her lips. 

“ You're a good little girl,” said Sheridan with detach¬ 
ment. “ Affectionate. Loyal. The first time we met 
I told you that I put loyalty above all things. Loyalty 
. . . and discretion. You've done a lot for me. And 
I’m grateful. ... I suppose you’d say I was a happy 
man ? Eh, Baby ? Rich : successful. You’ll know, 
when you’re my age, that the most precious thing in life 
is companionship. Without that, there’s no happiness. 
And I've never been happy because I’ve never had the 
perfect companion. And I must ! ” he continued, as though 
he had forgotten the girl in front of him. ” I will” . . . 

For long moments Evelyn struggled for breath. Then 
her rigid pose broke up at the shattering note of a bugle. 
Sheridan withdrew his hand to feel for his watch ; and 
his eyebrows revealed ingenuous surprise when he saw 
that it was time for luncheon. 

She, then, was not to be the perfect companion ; he 
had forgotten her in his sullen brooding over twenty 
years of loveless marriage. He was leaving his wife only 
to marry Auriol Otway ; by some masterpiece of con¬ 
trivance in his cunningly contrived system of life, the 
marconigram had touched a spring. The reply, which 
he read again before pocketing it, told him in some way 
that the spring had responded. 

With a sob choked down, Evelyn stood up and pressed 
her face against his chest. 

“ We’ll talk about this after dinner,” said Sheridan 
indulgently, " and you must tell me what you think of 
doing. God, how I envy you your opportunities, your 
youth ! . . . Always take what the day brings.” . . . 



CHAPTER II 


The Napoleon Touch 

" What followed ? Just what he foresaw, what proved 
The soundness of both judgments—his, o’ the knaves 
And fools, each trickster with his dupe,—and theirs, 

The people’s, in what head and arm could help. 

There was uprising, masks dropped, flags unfurled, 

Weapons outflourished in the wind, my faith 1 
Hcav'ilv did he let his fist fall plumb 
On each perturber of the public peace, 

No matter whose the wagging head it broke— 

From bald-pate craft and greed and impudence 
Of night-hawk at first chance to prowl and prey 
For glory and a little gain beside. 

Passing for eagle in the dusk of the age,— 

To florid head-top, foamy patriotism 
And tribunitial daring, breast laid bare 
Thro’ confidence in rectitude, with hand 
On private pistol in the pocket ...” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 


I 

P ROXIMITY to England, made manifest by the 
prompt acknowledgement of Sheridan's wireless 
message, changed the atmosphere of the Koh-i-nor from 
empty resignation to brisk cheerfulness. The chief subject 
of conversation among the women was when they should 
begin to pack ; among the men, how much they should 
distribute in tips. For the first time in many weeks a note 
of regret was heard that the voyage was coming to an 
end. The facetious paraded their old jests for a last 
airing ; the quarrelsome laid aside their old enmities in 
the soothing belief that they would have to meet their 
fellow-travellers but seldom again. 

249 



250 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

His last days on board were spent by Sheridan in 
completing his interim report. Already, six days from 
Southampton, an air of expectancy was blowing out to 
meet him. The prime minister sent a message of welcome ; 
Lord Orpington submitted a proposal to entertain the 
mission at dinner before it disintegrated. England was 
beginning to throw her shadow over him ; or, if any one 
preferred to put it another way, he was beginning to 
throw his shadow over England. Dining by himself, 
Sheridan listened with half his attention to the chatter 
from the surrounding tables. His fellow-passengers were 
wondering how they would find their families, their 
houses, their businesses. Would their friends be allowed 
to meet them at the docks ? Would there be a special 
train ? Delightful to be back in England after all this 
time, but strange. They would need weeks to settle down, 
weeks more to “get into things". There would be clothes 
to buy, for a start. . . . 

“ Muddlers ! " Sheridan muttered. 

His own house would be ready to receive him ; his 
managers would be in attendance ; his new clothes would 
have been made for him and his tailors would arrive to 
fit him on the day he landed. Max Hendry would be at 
Southampton with a summary of all the news ; Rush- 
forth and Livingstone would give an account of them¬ 
selves before dinner. 

F And a letter from Auriol would end their farcical 
“experiment". 

He had arranged it all with a message of one word, 
Napoleonically. Within twelve hours young Hendry 
would be driving about London, allotting each one his 
part. And each would play his part faithfully. The only 
person for whom no part had yet been found was this 
girl who travelled as “ Mr. Sheridan’s personal secretary" 
With her looks and with the money he destined for her, 
she should marry and marry well. 



THE NAPOLEON TOUCH 


251 


Walking through the saloon, absent-mindedly nodding 
to Geoffrey Mallock, he wondered how she would like 
Mallock for a husband. He was unmarried, in need of 
money. . . . 

II 

After smoking a cigar on deck, Sheridan went to his 
cabin ; and, as he opened the door, he could tell from the 
scent in the air that Evelyn was waiting for him. In 
twelve months he had not killed her love for exotic 
soaps and powders. 

" We were interrupted," he reminded her, “ before 
you could tell me what you wanted to do when we get 
back." 

" I want to stay with you," Evelyn replied without 
hesitation. 

Sheridan shook his head and sat down in a low chair 
so that he should not seem to be towering despotically 
over a suppliant. 

" I'm afraid that’s not possible." 

For a moment, the hardening of his tone daunted 
her ; then she came to his chair and touched his hand 
timidly: 

“ Don’t you love me any more ? ’’ For the first time 
Sheridan observed that she was wearing a scarlet silk 
kimono. He had mistaken it for the dress which she had 
worn at dinner ; but it seemed to have been assumed in 
his honour, with the pearls which she was not allowed 
to wear in public. No doubt it was in his honour that 
she had slipped her bare feet into a pair of high-heeled 
scarlet shoes which he had chosen for her. ‘ You once 

Sciid • • • • • 

Sheridan withdrew his hand under pretext of searching 

for another cigar. How these creatures dragged things 
up against a man ! How literally they took an empty 
compliment! And, the stupider the woman, in his 



252 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

experience, the harder the parting ; the more docile 
at the beginning, the more tenacious at the end. 

“ I take back nothing that I ever said. It’s not your 
fault, my dear : you're all that you ever were. More.” 
The close-fitting film of scarlet revealed every line of her 
slender body. Her arms, when the loose sleeves fell back, 
where white and soft as newly fallen snow. Under the 
high crown of fine dark hair, the big eyes and wistful 
lips were frightened again, as on the far-off day when 
she had come to him in Cleveland Row. Since then, 
however, she had learned to keep the warm little hands 
smooth and comely; she had learned how to poise 
herself on her high heels, how to move and, at this 
moment, how to droop. Before he could stop her, she 
was curled on his knees, with her hands clasped about his 
neck. “ More,” he repeated deliberately. “ That’s not 
the point, though. You must have known this couldn’t 
go on for ever . . .” 

“ But I want it to ! ” she cried with the first note of 
passion that he had heard from her. 

“You don’t really. What you want is a husband you 
can acknowledge ; children ; a home. I can help you 
to make a home ; and I can help you to marry com¬ 
fortably when you’ve found the husband . . .” 

“ But it’s you I want ! ” 

Sheridan unclasped the clinging arms and lifted the 
girl into the chair. Then he walked to the table and cut 
his cigar. Unless properly handled, this child would lose 
control of herself and make a noise. 

“ It’s not possible. Don’t compel me to say that 
again,” he rejoined sharply. “ Now, I don’t suppose you 
want to go back to your people ; so, if you tell me where 
you’d like to settle . . . And, if you have an occupation 
of some kind, it will give you an answer for the people 
who wonder how you live. The rest, the people who 
don't know you, had better imagine that some one has 



THE NAPOLEON TOUCH 253 

left you money. We shall see each other next week at 
Lord Orpington’s dinner ; but that winds up the mission 
and we shan’t meet after that unless I arrange it specially. 
You had better let me know about the house some time 
before next Thursday. Now is that all clear ? ” 

Though the protecting cigar was now aglow, it seemed 
hardly to be needed. Evelyn sat curled in the chair as 
he had set her there : one knee thrust under the other, 
painfully, though she seemed unconscious of physical 
pain ; one foot turned in, ungracefully, as though she 
were indifferent to grace. 

With an effort she stood up and tried to look Sheridan 
in the face. Though she had never imagined herself the 
heroine of such a scene, she had realized, ever since Miss 
Mellor’s first confidence, that such a scene might end 
such a drama as her own. The films gave little guidance ; 
and she was driven to invent her own action for betrayed 
and discarded heroines. Sometimes, in these ultimate 
conflicts, the girl convinced her lover against his will, 
refusing to be discarded and burying the betrayal beneath 
a subsequent marriage. Sometimes she threw his cheque 
in her lover’s face, fiercely whispering that she might 
give but that she would not sell. Never, in imagination, 
had she been too much dazed to resist. 

“ I understand,” she answered. 

" If there’s anything . . .” Sheridan began. 

Evelyn tried to speak, but her parting lips gave vent 

only to a single, inarticulate moan. 

“ You’d better go to bed,” Sheridan recommended. 

“ Don’t send me away yet! ” she cried. “ Not yet! 

Can’t you see I do, honest to God, love you ? ” 

Too quick for countering, the white arms were once 
more about him, the lithe, warm body clinging to him 
like a trembling scarlet flower; the tear-bright eyes and 
quavering lips were upturned for his kisses. 

Sheridan shook his head. The scarlet flower fell 



254 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

crumpled to the floor, straightened itself and disappeared. 
Though the air was still heavy with scent, Sheridan found 
he was alone : alone and shaken ; more moved than a 
woman of this kind had ever moved him before. Perhaps 
he was not yet tired of her himself; certainly he had 
not been loved before with an equal abandonment. 

And yet who could say “ certainly ” of any woman ? 
She might have been hoping to bind him in the chains 
of his own passion ; she might be preparing a last appeal 
to pathos. It mattered little one way or the other : 
Evelyn Colthurst vanished from his life in the moment 
when she carried a one-word message to the wireless- 
room. Until it was written, he had not decided what to 
write : he could say, with perfect honesty, that he had 
taken six months to make up his mind ; having made 
up his mind, he could not, with perfect honour, continue 
this relationship. 

“ My wife, when we marry, will have a right to 
expect . . .” he mused. Remembering the touch of 
Evelyn’s white arms, he felt that he had behaved with 
something like nobility in resisting her. “ For no one 
would have known. Now I should be wronging Auriol . . .” 

Latching the door open for the last breath of scent 
to escape, Sheridan went on deck to finish his cigar. 
He was interested in the ethics of this last encounter. 
Imprimis, as a man, he needed women in his life ; all 
but the married were a fair prey for a bachelor, but, 
once married himself, a man must cleave to his wife. 
Should the marriage come to an end, as between his own 
wife and himself, he was free once more to follow his 
fancy ; when a new marriage was arranged, he must 
cleave to his new wife. Nothing could be clearer. 

It would have been idle to explain all this to Evelyn. 
She would not have understood him, she would have 
thought he was trying to justify himself ; there was no 
saying what she would have thought. His enemies 



THE NAPOLEON TOUCH 255 

muttered that Ambrose Sheridan could always justify 
anything he did ; Ambrose Sheridan, on the other hand, 
never did anything he could not justify. There lay the 
difference. He thought before he acted ; when he acted, 
he acted swiftly and decisively, as with that marconigram. 
The Napoleon touch, as some people liked to call it . 

Ill 

Six days later the Koh-i-nor was tugged into South¬ 
ampton. 

The reporters, racing one another to be first on board, 
were guided to their quarry when they found a length of 
deck roped off opposite the gangway. The head of the 
mission, standing like the leader of a decorous boarding- 
party, was protected by a bodyguard of secretaries, a 
vanguard of permanent officials and a rearguard of 
servants. The secretaries carried despatch-boxes in 
pigskin cases; the officials carried black wallets of 
imitation-leather, stamped with the royal arms; the 
servants carried the hand-luggage of others. And 
Sheridan carried nothing. 

To Max Hendry, coming on board a gangway-length 
in advance of the pressmen, the grouping was not only 
premeditated but practised. Was this not Saturday ? 
Had not the cameras of the Sunday papers competed 
for stances before even the Koh-i-nor was tugged into 
range ? Max regretted that he had no excuse to be in 
uniform : his salute would have been so adequately 
taken by the operatic figure before him; and Sheridan 
had been received by so many betabbed aides-de-camp 
in so many colonies during the last six months. 

“ Chaliapin in Ivan le terrible,” Kenneth Doyle mur¬ 
mured frivolously. 

" Never heard of the horse. What’s he done ? ” asked 
Max. 

“ Later,” was the whispered reply 



256 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

Sheridan shook hands impressively and accepted from 
Doyle a letter in the colonial secretary’s writing. 

“ I shall be seeing Orpington this afternoon," he said, 
handing the letter to Max. “ Now lead the way, please." 

Two minutes later he was in his carriage, with Max 
opposite him and an open despatch-box between them. 
By the door a telegraph-boy stood slowly counting the 
words of the messages which Max handed him. The 
photographers took up advantageous positions on the 
platform ; the reporters collected names from all who 
would impart them ; and the relations of the secretaries 
and officials stole forward for a glimpse of Ambrose 
Sheridan at work. 

As the train began to move, the head of the mission 
went to the window and hailed a paper-boy. A joke was 
made ; the photographers caught him smiling ; and 
the reporters noted that " Mr. Sheridan appeared to be 
in the best of health and spirits ." Then he withdrew his 
head and returned to the letters which Max was silently 
offering him. 

“ And things at home ? " he enquired. " Before I 
meet any one else." 

From Southampton to Waterloo the “ director of 
intelligence " primed his chief with the latest news. 
Mrs. Sheridan was better than Max had ever seen her. 
Tony was his usual self, leading his usual life ; and 
rumour whispered that he was paying assiduous court 
to Lady Margaret Selhurst, who at present was un¬ 
responsive. Livingstone was very well. Kenneth Doyle, 
by the way, was being divorced. Public affairs ? Econom¬ 
ically, the country was thriving ; industrially, the only 
menace came from strikes in areas where wages were not 
keeping pace with profits. The cost of living and the 
total of unemployed were lower than at any time since 
1914. The income-tax had been reduced ; money seemed 
plentiful. In consequence, Mr. Standish’s government 



THE NAPOLEON TOUCH 


257 

seemed more firmly seated than any of its predecessors 
of the last twelve years. 

“ And how much credit do I get for that ? " asked 
Sheridan. 

" Less than you did, I’m afraid, sir," Max answered. 
" People are forgetting . . " 

Sheridan smiled grimly. Standish and his colleagues 
were very like the mayor and corporation of Hamelin. 
They would bilk the pied piper if they could, pretending 
that they had been saved independently of his piping. 

" They’ll remember, I daresay, now that I’m back here 
again," he predicted. 

" Oh, yes! They’re expectin’ something pretty 
big ..." 

Max described the fever of excitement with which the 
return of the mission was being awaited. The voices 
which cried that Sheridan should be taken into the 
cabinet had increased in number during the last six 
months ; and, though the constitutional changes fore¬ 
shadowed in his speeches were not ol a kind to arouse 
popular enthusiasm, his report would get a sympathetic 
hearing. 

“ Indeed, anything you say ..." Max added. 

" You wouldn't include ministers among my suppor¬ 
ters ? " asked Sheridan. 

" They’ve said nothing one way or the other. I ought 
to warn you, sir, if you're seein' Lord Orpington . . . 

Sheridan’s attention quickened; and he nodded 
thoughtfully as Max described the growing resentment 
of the colonial secretary at the attacks on his department 
and himself. It was common knowledge by now that he 
had wished to resign and had only retained office to 
oblige the prime minister. The threat was being held in 
abeyance until Sheridan's return and was likely to take 
effect unless the proprietor of the Sheridan press dis¬ 
sociated himself from the attacks delivered in his absence 

R 



258 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

and gave an undertaking that they would not be renewed. 

An apology and security for good behaviour in the 
future "was the phrase which the colonial secretary had 
used ; and Max only softened the impact of the message 
to avoid offending his irascible chief. The last six months 
had not, so far as he could judge, made Sheridan readier 
to apologize or to promise good behaviour. 

I must see what the papers have been saying before 
I can tell whether they've said too much. If Orpington 
goes, who will take his place ? " 

" People seem to think you will, sir. Those who don’t 
like you say that's why you've been runnin' this campaign 
against him. Those who like you say this would be a 
good opportunity for gettin' you into the cabinet. Those 
who don t care one way or the other on personal grounds 
say that the best chance for your recommendations is 
for you to push them yourself from the C.O." 

And what does Sir John Ferrers say ? " asked 
Sheridan acidly. 

I haven't asked him because I didn't think he 
mattered. He don't cut as much ice as he did six months 
ago. As long as he and his friends controlled the second 
eleven, they could do what they liked with the P.M., 
but the second eleven’s broken away. If Ferrers resigned, 
Standish would have no difficulty in fillin’ his place. I don't 
say he'd welcome you, sir, but he can't keep you out." 

Sheridan looked narrowly at the frank young face 
opposite him and then stared out of window. Max, 
evidently, was handing on the gossip of the hour without 
trying to influence his auditor in any direction. He 
seemed sorry that his old friend Orpington might have 
to make way for his present master, but he was un¬ 
affectedly glad to see the former boycott of his present 
master breaking down. 

Very interesting 1 " murmured Sheridan with a glance 
at his watch. 



259 


THE NAPOLEON TOUCH 

If he had to meet Orpington within an hour, he must 
devise a formula for smoothing the colonial secretary’s 
ruffled plumage. Success could sometimes be almost 
too complete : he had not counted on finding the door 
of the cabinet already open ; and at all costs he must 
secure six months or a year without allowing it to be 
closed in his face or allowing himself to be forced over 
the threshold. A year was certainly not too much for 
the divorce and its attendant buzz of criticism and 
the rival distraction which he would have to arrange and 

the marriage with its second buzz and then the second 
rival distraction. 

“ Orpington's too touchy," he commented. 

“ He’s been such a popular idol all his life," said 
Max ; “ this is the first time he’s ever come up against 
a bad press." 

" But to run away . . ." 

“ He’s not sorry for the excuse, sir. He'd prefer to 
go without bein' pushed, but he's sick of the whole 
political business. If he doesn't clear out over this, he'll 
clear out over your report, by sayin’ he’s not enough in 
sympathy with it to do it justice." 

" Um. He can’t make that excuse, because he won't 
have my final recommendations for a good many months. 
I’m only giving him the interim report to-day. There’s 
a mass of detail to be worked out. I've still to get in 
touch with South Africa. Six months at the very least," 
he added half to himself ; " probably a year. Assuming 
Standish authorizes me to go on along the lines I'm 
proposing. And he will! It doesn't commit him to 
anything. And he’ll say it’ll keep me out of mischief. 

It would be absurd for Orpington to resign now. He 
needn’t fear I’m going to attack him unless he compels 
me. Tell him that, Hendry ! Or I'll tell him myself. . . . 
This second eleven you speak of ? " 

“ Well, sir, I think the poor old P.M. was gettin' 



26 o 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


rather tired of bein’ told that, if he didn’t do this or that, 
Ferrers and his lot would resign and nobody would take 
their places. He set himself to find out if he couldn't 
collect a few substitutes to play. And he has. Lord 
Otway told me . . .” 

“ Is Otway in this ? ” Sheridan interrupted. 

“You might call him the captain of the second eleven, 
sir.’’ 

Sheridan nodded and looked again out of window. 
This supplied the link he had been seeking. It was 
Otway who had persuaded the prime minister to erect 
the Trade Commission, thereby gaining for himself 
six months to set his daughter’s mind against the head 
of the mission ; he had no doubt hoped in those days 
that the mission would fail and its head be discredited. 
Now, when its head obstinately refused to be discredited 
and his daughter no less obstinately refused to be set 
against him, the tactics were changed. 

“ As they can't get rid of the cat by any other means,” 
Sheridan reflected, “ they'll choke him with cream.” 

The cabinet, with Otway flinging open the door and 
Standish hurrying forward with welcoming hands ; the 
cabinet, whether he liked it or not ; the cabinet, six 
months or a year before he was ready for it. Ingenious, 
Sheridan decided. Men like Otway were not to be des¬ 
pised. Ineffectual in business they might be ; but they 
were tenacious where their families were concerned and 
they shewed a pretty resourcefulness when intrigue 
was required. 

“ It’s very good of all these people to come down on 
my side after all these years,” he laughed, “ It doesn’t 
occur to them that until I've finished my present 
job . . .” 

“ I suppose, sir,” Max ventured, “ if the P.M. asked 
you . . .” 

“ One thing at a time ! I can undertake nothing for 



THE NAPOLEON TOUCH 261 

six months. I should have thought they must see that 
for themselves. . . . Vauxhall! We’re running in 
Tell Mallock I shan't want him again to-day.” 

IV 

At Waterloo the scene was staged to indicate, for the 
benefit of the assembled pressmen, that Mr. Sheridan 
was not so much “ arriving in London ” as ” taking 
leave of his colleagues ”. By the time that Max had opened 
the door and got himself out of the way, a protecting 
double cordon had formed to fend off too curious spec¬ 
tators. As the cameras were once more levelled on him, 
Sheridan descended majestically to the platform and 
shook hands with his mission. When he came to the female 
staff, he bared his head and passed along with a com¬ 
prehensive bow on either side. A democratic touch was 
added at the end when he shook hands with the messen¬ 
gers who had accompanied the mission. 

“ Napoleon reviewing his troops,” Geoffrey Mallock 
murmured to Doyle. " ‘ You were at Lodi, you rascal, 
eh? And Marengo.’ It’s charming to see how much 
pleasure he gets out of it all.” 

” It's amazing that people should be taken in by his 
buffoonery,” Doyle grunted. 

“ Perhaps they see that he’s something more than a 
buffoon,” said Mallock, with less than his usual irrever¬ 
ence. “ I went out to curse and I stayed to pray. He’s 
a bit of a genius, even if he’s more than a bit of a bounder. 
I’ve worked with him for six months and I know. Mark 
my words, we shall hear more of that young man,” he 
predicted flippantly. 

“ I daresay. Well, I shall see you on Thursday. Blue 
Peter's giving you all a dinner at the House.” 

“ I know. I've prepared Sheridan’s speech for him,” 
said Mallock. “ Tasty little thing. Good-bye.” 

As the head of the mission took his last farewells, 



262 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

Max cleared a space by the door of his car and stood by 
for orders. 

“ I shan’t have anything more for you at the moment/' 
said Sheridan. “ I shall see you at dinner . . .” 

“ To-night, sir ? " asked Max. “ I’ve promised to 
dine with the Otways.” 

Sheridan looked at him in surprise, which Max inter¬ 
preted to be surprise that any one should presume to 
make independent arrangements. It had seemed safe, 
however, to calculate that no work would be done on 
the first night. 

“ An old-standing engagement ? ” 

“No, sir. Only this morning. You remember your 
message said I was to deliver that letter to Auriol. She 
asked me then.” 

“ Oh, then I won’t upset your plans,” said Sheridan. 
“ The other letters you can distribute now.” 

Stepping into his car, he resisted an impulse to ask 
how Auriol had received her letter. Of what it contained, 
nothing was to be said until he had seen her. Her reply— 
a thing of six blurred, throbbing words, with an envelope 
endorsed “ URGENT ”—had reached him on board at 
Southampton ; and the other letters which he had written 
at the same time, six months ago, could be delivered. 

“You can drop me at the Colonial Office and take the 
car on,” he told Max. 

While he flattered poor Orpington, calculated Sheridan, 
the others—Laura, Tony and Livingstone—would have 
time to realize once and for all what he intended to do. 
They would meet, like the members of a board who had 
received a copy of the agenda before the meeting, to 
carry out what they might have carried out six months 
before if they had not refused to face facts when the 
facts came like brickbats in their eyes. He had not 
changed ; Auriol had not changed ; and these others, 
if they compared the dates when the letters were written 



THE NAPOLEON TOUCH 263 

with the dates when they were delivered, would see that 
he had known all the time that he would not change. 
The opportunity of saying “ I told you so " would not 
give him back his lost six months. But for the obstinacy 
of those who would not face facts, half the battles that 

still lay ahead of him would have been fought and won 
by now. 

There would be a battle with the Otways ; and that 
would be like wrestling with a mummy. A battle with 
Tony; and that would be like grasping a jelly-fish. 
A battle with Laura, which would be like trying con¬ 
clusions with a ghost. A battle with Livingstone, who 
had an offensive way of making him feel that he was 
battling with his own better judgement. 

“ If you want me, sir, I can easily dine with Auriol 
some other night," said Max, as the car turned into 
Downing Street. 

" I don’t want to upset any arrangements you and she 
have made," Sheridan answered. 

Auriol had evidently not broken the news to her little 
playmate. That, presumably, would be done at dinner; 
and Sheridan permitted himself a smile before picking 
up his despatch-box and preparing to face a half-circle 
of cameras by the entrance to the Colonial Office. Young 
Hendry was only about five-and-twenty; no fool; 
a good-looking boy ; and one born in a rank of life 
where everything and every one came easy. 

The race, however, was not always to the swift. 

V 

From the Colonial Office Max drove to Cleveland Row. 

“ He's arrived all right," he told Laura. " Very fit 
and in great form I was to give you this letter . . 

" But . . . isn't he coming here ? " she interrupted. 

“ As soon as he can get away from the C.O. I say, 
you have improved this room I " 



264 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

Affecting an enthusiasm which he did not feel, Max 
examined the new curtains and chair-covers. This must 
be a nerve-wracking day for Laura, wondering how 
Sheridan would meet her ; the curtains, the flowers, 
the ready tea-table seemed rather pathetic if he was not 
going to notice them. And, for all Max knew, there might 
be something in store for her worse than the old neglect. 
Kenneth Doyle had hinted months ago that Sheridan 
was going abroad to escape a scandal ; and, when Max 
tried to understand why a man should write letters that 
were only to be distributed on his return six months later, 
he could not help wondtring whether there was not some¬ 
thing rather serious in the wind. Was Sheridan consulting 
Livingstone about a separation ? Telling Laura that he 
could not go on with this cat-and-dog life any more ? 

Holding her letter with one tremulous hand, Laura 
was digging with the other at the crack below a flam¬ 
boyant lake of sealing-wax. The point of the letter- 
opener missed ; and she waited, breathing deeply, 
trying to breathe calmly, for her hand to become steady. 
Fingering the material of the curtains, Max wondered 
what Sheridan could have written. “ While I'm away, 
I want to think how we can make a fresh start. There cant 
be any question of separation; and ‘when you receive 
this . . .” 

He might be saying that. . . . 

Or he might, even six months ago, have written: 
“ I feel that six months can do no good. I am not a child. 
In six months' time we shall stand where we are standing 


now. When you receive this letter, it will only tell you that 
the ' pause for reflection ’ is at an end, that I was right 
(though one takes little pleasure in remembering it) . . •’ 
That, too, he might be saying. . . . 

It could only be one of the two, reflected Max, im¬ 


patient as the deathly stillness of the room began to 
tell on his nerves. Then he bit on his impatience : it 



THE NAPOLEON TOUCH 265 

was only one of two choices, when you waited for the 
foreman of the jury to say “ guilty " or “ not guilty " ; 
when you waited for the doctor to say “ nothing serious " 
or “no hope”. . . . 

Laura had put down the letter-opener and was ripping 
the envelope with her fingers. Only one of two things. 
One or the other. Apparently it was the other. . . . 

“ Nothing wrong, I hope ? ” said Max. 

She started as though he were shouting at her, then 
craned forward as though she had not heard him. Her 
eyes seemed alternately to stare and peer, as though 
he were alternately surging, gigantic, against her and 
receding, diminutive, into shadow. Max realized suddenly 
that she was likely to faint and stepped forward to catch 
her. As he supported her to a sofa, she looked at her 
reflection in a mirror ; and Max felt that, for her, the 
mirror had swept up on the last wave of movement. 

“ Giddy ! . . she muttered ; and they stood side 

by side before the wraith of a Burne-Jones woman, who 
seemed to droop through life, whispering and languishing. 
Then he laid her on a sofa and rang the bell. 

“ Your maid . . .” he muttered. “ I say, look here, 

I never believe in buttin' into other people s affairs, 
but we've been awful good pals ..." 

She opened her eyes and then turned away from him. 

“ Oh, physician, heal thyself! '' 

Max read the addresses on the other envelopes to give 

her time to compose herself. 

“ If there is anything I can do . . .'' he muttered. 

“ You can’t! No one can ! I'm afraid ... unless a 

miracle happens . . . there's dreadful unhappiness coming 

to many of us. I can't say more now . . .” she whispered, 
as the butler came in. 

Max waited till he could hand her over to her maid 
and then returned to the car. It seemed as if Kenneth 
Doyle had been right and that, under cover of a govern- 



266 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

ment mission, Sheridan had been sent abroad, like any 
hope-of-the-family who had entangled himself with a 
girl in a tea-shop, to get over it. And, apparently, the 
girl from the tea-shop had won. 

“ Goin’ off the deep end ? " Max asked himself. 

It was no part of his duties to suspect people, but he 
had never been able to understand why the beautiful 
and brainless Evelyn Colthurst had been engaged as a 
secretary unless she was intended to be much more than 
a secretary ; he had never understood why his circum¬ 
spect chief invited obvious, inevitable criticism by taking 
the girl round the world with him. And yet, if she was 
the “ girl from the tea-shop ” (“ Good title for a musical 
comedy,” Max decided), there was no cause for heroics. 
There had been others before her. Sheridan was not 
thinking of marrying her. Still less was he thinking of 
running away with her at a time when his political 
stock was soaring. 

" S’pose I shall hear in good time,” Max decided. 

Coleman Street, in the late hours of Saturday after¬ 
noon, was almost deserted ; and at the door of Andrew 
Livingstone, Fanshaw and Company, he found Andrew 
Livingstone hurrying away towards the Bank station. 

“ Letter from Mr. Sheridan,” Max announced from the 
window of the car. 

“ Mr. Sheridan ? ” echoed Livingstone. He was 
advertised to be back by now. If he was back, why 
should he write ? If he was not back, how could he ? 
“ When did he get in ? ” 

” This afternoon. I met him at Southampton. This 
thing was written some time ago, but I was only to 
deliver it when he gave the signal.” 

“I see.” Livingstone thrust the letter, unopened, 
inside his hat. “ Anything else ? ” 

“No. Is there any answer ? ” 

” \ou can say I’ve received this and that I’m taking 



THE NAPOLEON TOUCH 267 

the necessary steps.” So Livingstone was expecting 
something! He balanced an engagement-book on the 
sill of the window and turned the leaves, pencil in hand. 
With one long leg braced against the running-board 
and two long arms holding the book at the greatest 
possible distance from the big head and bulging eyes, 
he seemed more than ever like a tadpole on the verge of 
changing into something else. “ I should like to see him 
as soon as he can spare time. Is he at his house ? ” 

“ On his way there. I left him at the Colonial Office.” 
“ Ah ! Mrs. Sheridan knows he’s landed ? ” 

” Yes. I've just taken her a letter.” 

“ Well, I mustn't keep you then.” 

Max drove to Buckingham Gate, where he found a 
loaded taxi by the door of Tony Rushforth’s flat and 
Rushforth himself, attired for the week-end in the 
country, leaving his address with the hall-porter. 

“ Letter from the chief,” Max announced. 

“ A letter . . . ? ” The tone of surprise closely 
resembled Livingstone's. ” When did he land ? ” 

“ This afternoon.” As the letter was tugged from its 
envelope, Max watched for a change of expression. “ If 
there’s any message and you have a train to catch, 
I'll blow in on my way home.” 

“ Message ? ” Rushforth repeated vaguely. 

Then he turned back to the opening of the letter. 
No confidences here, Max decided, lony looked half- 
dazed, very much as his sister had looked an hour before ; 
and Max tried to yoke them with the phrase that Laura 
had used about “unhappiness coming to many people , 
unless a miracle took place. Was Sheridan running away 
from his wife, ending his public career, shutting up shop 
in England ? That would account for the letters and 
for the reaction they produced. It would account for 
Livingstone's colourless phrase about taking the necessary 
steps. And it all fitted in with Kenneth Doyle's story: 



268 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


the family had sent Sheridan abroad to bring him to his 
senses and he had come back to the family in a mood of 
reckless self-confidence which Max had been privileged 
to sample in the train from Southampton. “ Great 
unhappiness for many people ” : Max did not know 
whether to be sorrier for Laura or for the girl in the 
tea-shop, but he could spare no sympathy for his present 
companion. This business would cost complacent Tony 
his job ; and it was almost the only thing that would 
ruffle his complacency. 

“ I . . . Look here, I shall miss my train, if I’m not 
careful," said Tony, coming out of his stupor with a 
start. “ Tell Ambrose I've had his letter. I may tele¬ 
phone." Social self-importance mounted uncontrollably 
to his head and banished for a moment the memory of 
the disturbing letter. “ I’m staying with the Orpingtons." 

“ Give ’em my love," said Max. “ Nothing more ? " 

He returned to St. James' Street, dressed at leisure and 
drove across the Park to Manchester Square. 



CHAPTER III 


" The Man Himself Being Judge " 


“ Here are you picked out, by a miracle, 

And placed conspicuously enough, folks say 
And you believe, by Providence outright 
Taking a new way—nor without success— 

To put the world upon its mettle : good ! 

But Fortune alternates with Providence ; 

Resource is soon exhausted. Never count 
On such a happy hit occurring twice ! ” 

Robert Browning: Prince Hohcnstiel-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 

I 

O N arriving at Lord Otway’s house, Max found 
Auriol in an apple-green panniered dress, with 
a cloak over her arm, awaiting him in the hall. 

“ I made a mistake this morning," she told him. 
" There's an immense family-dinner; and, as I want 
to talk seriously to you, I thought you might like to 

take me somewhere else." 

“ I'd love to. The old spot ? ” he enquired ; then, 
uneasily, “ You're not going to be high-brow ? " 

Auriol laughed perfunctorily : 

“ No, I can promise that. Tell the man to drive to 
Bellamy's. And then tell me what you’ve been doing 
since ‘ we two parted in silence and tears,’ whenever 

it was." 

“ Silence . . . ? " 

“ It’s a quotation, dear. Byron." 

“ oh ! You ought to wave a flag when you re goin 

269 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


270 

to do things like that. Tell me about yourself first. You 
look better than I’ve seen you for months.” 

” I seem to know where I am for the first time in a good 
many months, which is a relief ... in some ways. 
You’ve been a wonderful friend to me, Max. I'm afraid 
I've sometimes been very tiresome, but you’ll make 
allowances when you know everything. I hope you 
always will be my friend, Max ...” 

Suddenly losing the gaiety with which she had received 
him, Auriol lapsed into silence and stared out of window 
until they reached their destination. In the Octagon 
Room of Bellamy’s, half restaurant and half dancing- 
floor, Max chose a table in a remote alcove and ordered 
dinner. While the cocktails were being prepared, he 
suggested to Auriol that they should dance ; and, when 
she sat listlessly as though she had not heard him, he 
pulled her to her feet and set himself to muster spirits 
enough for the two of them. 

“I'd have let you know soon enough, if I thought 
you tiresome,” he assured her. ” As for bein’ friends, 
I can't imagine anything that would make me change.” 
His hand was pressed in gratitude ; and he gripped her 
to him until her scented chestnut hair brushed his cheek. 
“If I hadn’t been so well brought up, I'd kiss you in 
full view of the band, just to prove it.” 

“ You mustn't do that. And you mustn't hold me so 
tight.” They danced round the room in silence while 
Auriol collected her courage. “ In fact, you must give 
up kissing me altogether.” 

For answer he drew her to him again, touching her ear 
with his lips. She was like a flower. Her skin had the 
soft sweetness of a rose. 

“ Behave yourself, Max ! ” she whispered angrily. 
In jerking her head away, she nearly jerked herself out 
of his arms. ‘‘I’m going to sit down. I shan’t dance 
any more.” 



" THE MAN HIMSELF BEING JUDGE " 271 

“ You're not angry, are you ? " Max asked. “ It wasn’t 
really a kiss." 

" Whatever it was, don't do it again ! I suppose it 
was my fault for not speaking before. We can be friends 
without kissing. Or if we can't . . 

This petulant harping on the friendship motif threatened 
to become wearisome. 

" I don’t follow what you’re drivin' at," Max com¬ 
plained. 

“ Because you never listen when I try to talk seriously. 
I've told you again and again, for instance, that I’m 
not going to marry you. I don’t know whether you 
believe it . . 

" I don't.” 

“ Well . . ." Auriol found herself suddenly out of 
breath. " Well, that’s my job to-night, to make you 
believe it." 


II 

While their waiter handed the cocktails and hovered 
over Max’s chair with a wine-list, Auriol waited to drive 
her lesson home in a form that could not be mistaken. 

So many conversations during the last year had begun 
in this way ! Sometimes Max had ended them by making 
her laugh (he was maturing a jest now as he looked at 
her over the top of the wine-list); sometimes they had 
quarrelled and she had missed him too much to with¬ 
hold her forgiveness ; most often she had beaten in¬ 
effectually against his mailed front of incredulity. 

"You'd be convinced if you heard I was engaged to 
some one else ? " she asked when they were alone. “ Or 
would you be too sure of yourself even then ? ” 

" I'm sure of you, which is much more to the point." 
" And if I married some one else ? " 

Their waiter approached with a waggon of hors 
d‘oeuvres; and Max made deliberate choice. 



272 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


" If you marry some one else,” he answered in his 
own time, “ it won’t matter whether I'm convinced or 
not. I shan’t be there to see. Even then I shouldn’t be 
convinced. If you were capable of marry in’ any one 
else, you just wouldn't be you. God knows I shouldn’t 
want to keep you. Go ! With my blessin’! I should 
wish the other feller joy of you. The girl who could 
play a trick like that wouldn’t be the Auriol I know. . . . 
But why drag up this dreary business ? ” 

'' Why should you call it a ‘ trick ' ? ” Auriol demanded 
furiously. ” You don’t pretend we’re still engaged ? ” 
“Oh no! I shan’t bring an action for breach of 
promise. ... I say, I’ve just remembered there’s an 
‘ r ’ in the month. What about an oyster ? ” 

As he turned to look for the waiter, Auriol felt that 
yet another opportunity was being snatched from her. 

" I don’t want any, thanks,” she told him. “ And, 
Max, I really can't let you talk to me like this. Why 
d’you say you wouldn't be ' there to see ' ? Don't you 
want me to be happy ? You once said that if it was the 
man in the moon . . .” 

“ That was some time ago,” he interrupted. “ I’ve 
always said I’ll stand aside for any one who’ll make you 
happier than I can, but you’ll never be happy if you can 
chop and change, engaged to one feller one minute and 
another another, bein’ very fond of every one all the 
same. We were engaged once ; and your people—quite 
properly, as I see now—refused to recognize it till I had 
something to marry on. You said you’d wait. I told 
you I’d never complain if you changed your mind. That 
was a square deal. You’ve never told me that you have 
changed, though for the last year I could see you had 
some one else in mind. And pretty wretched it’s made 
you ! When you said to-night that you knew where 
you were at last, I felt the other business was all over. 
I'm sorry, Auriol, but I'm hanged if I can go through 



273 


" THE man himself BEING JUDGE ” 


this racket again, bein’ pushed into the cold when some 
one else comes along and then bein’ pulled back into 
favour when you’ve turned the other feller down. If you 
say you’ve changed and don’t care for me any more, 
I’ll clear out.” . . . 


" Hut you don’t understand ! I’m as fond of you as 
I ever was ! ” she broke in. ” I don’t know what I should 
have done these last months if it hadn’t been for you.” 

“ Then there’s no question of your marryin’ anybody 
else.” 


" Can't I be friends with you unless I marry you ? ” 

“ My Lord, would you stay friends with a man who be¬ 
haved as you talk of behavin’ ? If I’d told you I'd wait, 
if I’d come to you whenever I wanted cheerin’ up . . 

” I thought you were being disinterested,” Auriol 
muttered. 

Max bit back a rejoinder that would have matched 
her own. 

” Come and dance,” he suggested. 

“ ' What'll 1 do 


When you 
A re far away 


And I 


Am feeling 
Blue ? 

What'll I do?’ ” 

Auriol shook her head, resolved that this time at least 
she would not shirk her duty. In spite of the sentiment 
that was talked, there could apparently be no friendship 
between men and women when once passion entered in, 
with its attendant demands and jealousies. 

“ I didn’t think you could misunderstand,” she sighed. 
“ While I thought you loved me unselfishly, I didn’t 
mind what I took from you. Was it only words ? ” 

“ Was it only words when you said you were bound 
as much, whether we called ourselves engaged or nor ? ” 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


274 

" That was some time ago ! " she mimicked him. 

“ I don’t know that' we set any limit. . . . For 
heaven’s sake, though, don't let’s spoil a jolly evenin’ 
by rowin’ ! Finish up that stuff you’re eatin’ . . 

As he stood up smiling, Auriol had difficulty in sup¬ 
pressing a scream of impatience : 

“ No ! Sit down ! Max, we can't drift on like this ! 
I’m not going to marry you. There ! Good Heavens, 
don’t smile ! It hurts me ! Max, I am marrying some 
one else. I swear it’s true. I don’t want to hammer 
it in, but you make me. Do you believe it now ? ” 

For many moments there was no answer in words, but 
Auriol saw conviction being born at last in his staring eyes. 
The smile faded; the pale cheeks, flushed a moment before 
by the heat of the room, lost their transient colour ; the 
lips quavered till he covered them with his hand. 

“ Who . . . ? ” he asked, after two unsuccessful 
attempts. 

“ I mustn't say yet.” 

” You don't feel I have a right to know ? ” 

Auriol looked round the filling room and answered 
him in a whisper, careful to keep her eyes from his. 

“ Sher ...” Max choked, with the name half spoken. 
“ Is this a joke ? ” 

" That letter you brought me . . .” she faltered. 

“Ah, yes ! Letter ...” Max answered dizzily. 

The band was giving an encore ; a dozen couples were 
dancing ; scattered waiters leaned against the walls, 
with bunched napkins under their arms. 

" What’ll I do 
When you 
Are far away 
And I 
Am feeling 
Blue ? 

What’ll I do?” 



“ THE MAN HIMSELF BEING JUDGE ” 275 

“ Sheridan ? ” Oblivious of her presence, Max was 
beginning to mutter sleepily to himself; and Auriol 
listened in helpless fascination to the broken sentences. 
“ Kenneth Doyle right after all . . . And ' the girl in 
the tea-shop ’ . . . My lord, Auriol! Now I see . . . 
Everlasting rows with her family . . . Don't wonder 
Tony looked a bit white about the gills . . . And 
Laura ... It’s broken her heart, you could hear it 

break . . . And the feller shook hands with me, travelled 

up from Southampton opposite me, knowin’ all the time. 
Poinsettia . . . Premeditated. Arranged in cold blood 
months ago and touched off in mid-Atlantic . . . 

‘ Physician, heal thyself ’ . . . But he's an old man! 
He’s trodden the life out of one wife already. An old 
lecher, too. Skin like a rose-leaf ...” 

Auriol leant forward and laid her hand on Max’s wrist. 

“ I’ve left my bag outside. Excuse me a minute ! ” 

“ One of the waiters . . ." he mumbled, then went 
back to his broken sentences. ” Me of all people . . . 
He knew, of course . . . That's why he did it . . .” 

Two minutes later the head-waiter came to his table 
with a pencilled note : “ I have gone home. I couldn't 
hear to see you suffering. My dear, my dear, you must try 
to forgive me for hurting you. Auriol." 

Max pocketed the note and called for his bill. While 
it was being fetched, he wandered, bare-headed, into 
the street, followed by the commissionaire with his hat 
and coat. 

Ill 

Auriol let herself in with her latch-key and hurried on 
tip-toe through the hall. 

As she passed the door of the dining-room, she heard 
a sustained mutter of vehement voices and guessed that 
the servants had left the room. The family-council was 
in session. Much good, much harm, much anything it 



276 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

would do ! One must choose one’s own faith in politics 
and religion ; one must choose one’s own wife or husband. 

“ For nothing can compensate his mistake 
On such a point, the man himself being judge : 

He cannot wed twice, nor twice lose his soul.” 

Unable to face another altercation so soon after her 
parting from Max, she locked the door of her room and 
lay down on the bed. A phrase from some play haunted 
her : “ Oh, and I wanted so much to sleep to-night! ” 
Was it Paula Tanqueray, very near the end of her tether ? 
Auriol unlocked the fateful letter which Ambrose had 
written before sailing ; but it savoured too much of a 
manifesto to comfort her, just as his conversation always 
savoured too much of a public speech. 

“ 1 have done futile things in my life, but never any 
that I knew beforehand to be futile. . . .” She turned to 
the next page : “ As you are of age, we need not discuss 
whether he will approve of such a marriage. ...” And to 
the next : “ Weird and wonderful tales will be told you 
about me, but you know that I trust you.” 

Auriol locked the letter away and drifted without 
purpose about the room, staring at books and pictures 
that commemorated the passing phases of a life that had 
swung the full circle of change since the days when that 
modern, precious room had been a common nursery. 
There were photographs of Colin in uniform, of Joyce 
in her bridal dress and of Imogen bending over her 
first baby ; there was a family group, with herself dis¬ 
guised by a straight fringe and “ bell-rope ” plaits; 
there were water-colours of Lokshott by a starving artist 
whom Lady Otway had befriended. No one else would 
sacrifice wall-space to such mediocre work, but Auriol 
felt that a bad picture of her beloved home was better 
than none. And life at Lokshott, though doubtless they 
all had their troubles there, now seemed a golden age, 



" THE MAN HIMSELF BEING JUDGE ” 277 


before the war, before any of them grew up, before she 
went to Cambridge and returned with ideas. 

‘Ms you are of age, we need not discuss whether he will 
approve of such a marriage.’’ . . . 

Auriol felt that her father could not be dismissed quite 


so easily as that, though in truth she had dismissed 
him as easily herself in the moment when she promised 


to marry Ambrose. If only the family would accept an 
accomplished fact! If only her father would come out 
of the family-council to say : “ You are old enough to 
know your own mind. You re not doing this in a hurry. 
You are the best judge whether you will be happy . . 


Unfortunately, he was far more likely to say with heart¬ 
breaking patience : “To begin with, he's old enough to 
be your father. He already has a wife whom he’s succeeded 
in making miserable. If we knew the history of his relations 
with other women, it wouldn’t be a pretty one / and there s 
no reason why you should hold him when every one else 
has failed. Your head’s turned because you’ve fascinated 
an unquestionably able man. You’re too young to know 
your own mind. It was only the other day that you thought 
you were in love with Max Hendry and wanted to publish 

the engagement ." 

“ It will be that," Auriol sighed, “ unless they go on 


with this business of saying nothing." 

Ever since the spring, when her parents went to Rome 
and Auriol suggested that there was one subject which 
they might profitably leave undiscussed for six months, 
no reference to Ambrose, apart from his public work, 
had been made in her hearing They all knew that Max 
had brought her a letter from him; no doubt they had 
all seen, in the basket outside her room, an envelope 
marked* “ URGENT” and addressed to “ Ambrose 
Sheridan Esq., M.P., Passenger on board S.S. Koh-i-nor." 
They could guess why she had insisted on dining alone 
with Max ; and, at the family-council, they were probably 



278 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

agreeing that, until she gave them a lead, they had best 
hold their peace and trust to the coercive logic of events. 
Sheridan, they were saying, was not yet divorced ; any¬ 
thing might happen in the next six months. 

Meanwhile, she was unable to give them a lead. 
Ambrose, in his letter, had implored her to say nothing 
to any one until he had seen her. In talking to Max, 
she had given herself leave to make an exception because 
Max stood in an exceptional relationship to her. 

“ I don’t know how I’m going to make Max under¬ 
stand,” Auriol told herself, turning uneasily from side 
to side. 

The scene at their interrupted dinner would haunt her 
all her life. She could never wear green again for fear 
of the memories that this apple-green, panniered dress 
would conjure up. She hoped Max did not think she was 
running away, but she could not sit there while he talked 
to himself like a man whose brain had been stricken. 

She was tossing and moaning in her sleep when her 
mother came in next day with a breakfast-tray. 

“ I just wanted to make sure you were in,” explained 
Lady Otway. ‘‘ As you didn’t come to say good-night...” 

“ I was in bed before you'd finished dinner,” Auriol 
answered. 

“ That sounds as if you hadn’t enjoyed yourself,” said 
Lady Otway, setting the tray in safety and laying a cool 
hand on the girl’s hot little fingers. 

“ I didn’t.” Auriol curled herself into a bow to make 
room for her mother on the tumbled bed. “ I thought 
it was time to have things out with Max. I’ve known 
for ages that we should never marry, but he got rather 
hot and bothered when I told him. He’ll get over it, 
of course. I simply won’t let Max quarrel with me . . .” 

‘‘You talk rather as though breaking an engagement 
were no more than cutting a dance,” commented Lady 
Otway. " The spirit of the age, I suppose.” 



“ THE MAN HIMSELF BEING JUDGE ” 279 

“ If Max won't be friends, it'll mean he's thinking more 
of himself than of my happiness,'* Auriol pouted. 

" That's not an uncommon thing with people in love.” 
Her mother looked thoughtfully at the slight figure 
curled about her. Auriol seemed unconscious of her 
body, taking little pride in it, feeling no bashfulness 
for it. She was developing later than her sisters and 
far later than most girls of her age. “ The difficulty with 
you, Auriol, is that you've never been in love You’re 
friends with people, but you never go mad about them.” 

“ I’m naturally not sloppy . . .” 

“You must be a little mad if you’re going to be 
happily married,” said Lady Otway. ‘‘You can’t face 
the disillusionments of marriage in cold blood. Until 
you feel you'd rather die than live without a certain 
man . . .” 

“ I've never felt that with Max,” Auriol broke in. 

“ Or with any one. But never forget that other people 
may feel passion while you're still cold and that, in that 
state, there’s hardly anything they won’t do. It doesn’t 
matter that the woman hates them and tells them so; 
they still want her.” ... 

With a shudder Auriol saw again Ambrose Sheridan's 
face when he asked if she could not see that he was in 
love with her. She heard again, with a second shudder, 
Max’s rambling voice as he talked to himself. 

“ For once in a way I’m glad not to be a man,” she 

sighed. 

“ A woman in love is worse than a man. The world 
would have come to an end long ago, otherwise. Women 
are slower to move, but they are moved more deeply. 
So don’t despise people who are caught by passion: 

it may be your turn next.” 

Lady Otway bent down to kiss a frown from her 
child’s hot head. The little homily on passion might 
become invested with a meaning in the future ; but, in 



28 o 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


Auriol’s present state of development, a lecture on 
alcoholic craving would have been as serviceable. 

“ What’s every one doing to-day ? ” asked the girl in 
patent eagerness to turn the conversation. 

“ Your father and I are going to church. After that, 
he has to see Peter Orpington. We’re lunching with 
Imogen and Philip. They expect you, by the way . . ." 

“I’m afraid I must stay here. I’m expecting a tele¬ 
phone-call ..." 

Lady Otway looked into the dark-ringed hazel eyes. 
They held a secret : one that Auriol would guard stub¬ 
bornly, one that frightened her in some measure, but 
not one that occasioned shame or remorse. She seemed 
to have made up her mind and was now only restless 
and unhappy till she should have declared herself. 

“ I thought you’d be interested to know the Max 
affair was over," said Auriol. 

“ Then it’s just as well you didn’t marry him when 
you first talked of it. I only hope next time ..." Lady 
Otway leant forward and lifted Auriol from her pillows 
till the chestnut head was reposing on her breast and the 
girl’s white arms were twined about her neck. “ I shall 
never encourage or discourage you again; I’m not 
clever enough. I see no reason why the marriage I might 
make for you should be any better than the marriage 
you make for yourself. You ought to marry : it’s a 
mistake for girls to take lovers. It’s a mistake to marry 
out of your class if you’re going to stay in England. 
Perhaps I’m narrow-minded ; I hate mixed marriages. 
But I don’t know any more than I did at your age, about 
marriage or anything else. Unlike the rest of this peculiar 
family, I don’t pretend to ; but then I only married into 
the family, I’m a Heneage." 

Auriol lay back on her pillows and pressed her throb¬ 
bing temples. Peeping through her mother's mask of 
common sense was a most romantic idea of passion; 



" THE MAN HIMSELF BEING JUDGE " 281 

but nobody nowadays did in fact die of unrequited 
love. 

“ Aren't you being too physical ? ” she asked. Of 
Ambrose it would be absurd to say that she would rather 
die than forgo him. “ If I were a great chemist and 
I met another great chemist, some man who would help 
me to revolutionize science . 

“ Share his laboratory, but not his house,” Lady 
Otway urged. “ It’s not safe to marry without love till 

you’re too old for love to matter.” 

As soon as she was dressed, Auriol telephoned to 

invite Max to lunch with her 

“ 1 The man himself being judge/ ” she murmured to 

herself. 

Her burden had in some way become lighter since 
she discovered that she had to bear it unaided. 


IV 

“ Say I’m not at home and you don’t know where 
I am,” Max instructed his man on being told that Miss 
Otway wished to speak to him. " Everything disorgan¬ 
ized by Mr. Sheridan's return. Then you might see if 
you can get through to Sir Mark. Tell him I should like 
to come up to Newmarket if he has room for me. After 

that ...” , 

After that, he did not know what to do ; and, dropping 

into a chair, he tried to distract himself with a pile of 
Sunday papers. 

It was curious that, to the public, he should seem most 
firmly allied to Sheridan at the moment when, after a 
necessary exchange of candour, he was leaving him or 
ever. The Illustrated, the Looking-Glass, the Trumpeter 
and the Stop-Press were full of the Koh-i-nor s f arrival 
and, in four pictures out of six, he found himself shak g 
hands or standing stiffly to attention until the great 
man should be ready to notice him. In size, Max had 


f 



282 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


admit, if in nothing else, Sheridan must be considered 
a great man, he stood half a head taller than Kenneth 
Doyle, who was no pigmy ; and the shadow cast by the 
dropping daylight covered the width of the deck and 
disappeared beyond the field of the camera. If you chose, 
Max fancied, you could think of that shadow creeping 
eastward and lengthening with every minute's decline 
of the sun. You could see it stretching over the water 
and climbing the docks, projecting itself to London 
and slowly mounting the walls of Cleveland Row and 
Buckingham Gate, Manchester Square and St. James' 
Street. . . . 

“ Laura. Tony. Auriol . . . Me,” he muttered. 
“ I wonder what the others . . 

Tossing the papers on the floor, he seized a hat and 
hurried through the September sunshine to Cleveland 
Row. If he sat brooding, he would go out of his mind. 
And, until he had seen Sheridan again, he could not be 
sure that the last twenty-four hours had not been a 
nightmare. 

The secretaries’ room was full of visitors, when he 
arrived, but, on putting his head in at the door of the 
work-room, he was told to come in. 

” Though I shan’t have anything ready for you till 
to-morrow,” said Sheridan, looking morosely at the 
papers stacked on every table. 

It was no nightmare, then. Sheridan was real and had 
really come back. 

On his way from St. James' Street, Max had prepared 
a speech for his chief. Confronted with him, he found that 
he could not deliver it. Sheridan would not understand. 
It would glide off his tough skin like a homily on gentle¬ 
ness from the shoulders of a gladiator. 

Can you say at all how long it will take you to get 
straight, sir ? ” Max enquired. “ I don't want to leave 
you till you’ve settled in.” 



“ THE MAN HIMSELF BEING JUDGE ” 283 


“ Leave ? ” Sheridan echoed in surprise. 

“ Yes, sir. I have to go abroad.” 

“Where?” 

“I'm not in a position to say yet, sir.” 

“ Oh ? ” Sheridan stood up and took a slow turn to 
the end of the room, his head bent forward and his 
hands clasped under the tails of his coat. Clearly as though 
he were speaking, his frown proclaimed slight wonder and 
slight annoyance that some one had been talking. Not 
Laura, he was thinking: she was too well broken. Not 
Livingstone : he was too discreet. Nor Tony : he was 
too craven. It must be Auriol, who had still to be broken. 
“ We'll talk about this later. If Livingstone's in London, 

I should like to see him.” 

Max wandered through the secretaries’ room and 
tapped at the door of the library. The new curtains were 
half drawn ; and he was reminded of his fancy about 
Sheridan's long, merciless shadow, mounting the walls 
and dimming the windows of one house after another. 

“ Laura ? ” he called into the unfamiliar darkness. 

“ Mrs. Sheridan is not down yet,” answered Living¬ 


stone’s voice. , 

“ Oh, I bin telephonin' to your place. The chief would 

like to see you,” said Max. . 

“I suspected he might," said Livingstone grimly. 

The shadow had touched Evelyn Gardens, then, or what¬ 
ever shell covered this dry, taciturn solicitor, who should 
by now have been in the train for Woking, there o p ay 
two rounds of golf with other mummies, thence to return 
for dinner and endless discussions of port wine with yet 
more of the same breed. " I wanted to have a word with 
Mrs. Sheridan, though: she must put a stopper on th 

business. . . . How much do you know . 

It was the first time that Livingstone had given a hint 

of unbending; and, though the one.thing.that M 
knew for certain was also the one thing he was least 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


284 

ready to discuss, he felt he must school himself to speak 
of Auriol without blenching. 

“ I know Sheridan’s thinkin’ of another dip in the 
lucky tub.” 

" It must be stopped,” Livingstone declared. “ I was 
against it six months ago, but now ...” 

As though despairing of more eloquent reasons, he 
threw Max a pile of Sunday papers marked with blue 
pencil. There was "reason to believe”, Max read, that 
Mr. Sheridan was well pleased with his labours ; there 
was " reason to believe ” that the days of laissez-faire 
were numbered and that the government, which was to 
be congratulated on having chosen such a man for such 
a task, would shortly be in possession of a considered 
policy for co-ordinating the trade of the whole empire. 
For all the attention that had been bestowed upon them, 
the trading possibilities of the British Empire had been 
as little developed or fostered as those of the old Germanic 
confederation. It might well be that the Sheridan scheme 
would place its author among the architects of a new 
order, on the plane of those who had created imperial 
Germany from the chaos of the medieval empire. 

It was hardly, Max decided, the utterance of a man 
who contemplated retiring or being driven from public 
life. 

" He’s got a good press.” 

Livingstone nodded. The press might perhaps be too 
good. One voice was demanding to know why a man 
like Mr. Sheridan had no place in the government; 
another found him a niche at the head of the Colonial 
Office by calling for the resignation of the present incum¬ 
bent : Lord Orpington, whose picturesque personality 

and well-merited popularity on the Turf are hardly cl 

compensation for sustained incompetence as an adminis¬ 
trator . . .” 

A divorce will send all this up in smoke,” predicted 



" THE MAN HIMSELF BEING JUDGE " 285 


Livingstone. “ I told him before and I shall tell him 
again : he'll make the third to Parnell and Dilke. Why, 
you have a test-case in Kenneth Doyle. It will be the 
end of everything. And what that means . . ." 

The solicitor broke off aghast at the task of furnishing 
Sheridan with the imagination to picture some thirty 
.years of fretting inactivity, passed in a backwater from 
which he could see younger, less expert hands, fumbling 
with his craft. All this and more had been said and 
said again, six or eight months before, when the idea of 
divorce was first sprung on them. Had Sheridan, whose 
six-months-old letter might have been written by a 
wilful child, learned anything in the meantime ? Had he 
bamboozled himself into thinking that now, as always, 
there must be some special providence fighting for 
Ambrose Sheridan, some breach being made for him in 
the laws that confined others, some low cunning at work 
to secure him the best of both worlds ? 

" He's been too successful ! " Livingstone fumed. “ He 
doesn’t see he’s become national property in the last 

few months." 

V 

Max turned, as the door opened slowly, and hurried 

forward as Laura Sheridan came in. 

" I . . . wanted to tell you I was sorry," he whispered. 

As they shook hands, he felt his fingers gripped. 

“ I suppose . . . it's what I expected all along, she 

Slg " Ihadn't an idea till last night," Max answered between 
his teeth. “ I heard there was some one but I never 
dreamt it was Auriol. Why should I ? Good God . 

Livingstone came forward and shook hands, murmuring 
that he would see if Ambrose would be disengaged soon 
As he left the room, Laura sank listlessly into a c 1 

and covered her eyes. 



286 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


" I made sure you knew. When you seemed certain 
of her, I began to pluck up courage for myself; and, 
when you seemed to cool off, I hoped you were setting 
your teeth and it wasn’t hurting too much. . . . She 
ought to have told you. Max.” 

" She said often enough. ... I thought she was 
raggin’ ... I hadn’t any money ...” 

“ My dear, Ambrose didn’t give you three or four 
hundred a year for nothing ! It was to keep you from 
earning more, becoming independent. I did warn you 
against that.” 

“ But what are we goin’ to do about it ? ” 

Laura’s thin lips closed in a straight line ; they parted 
to utter the one word “submit”, then closed again. 

“ But . . . ! ” Max leapt to his feet, as though a 
broad way of escape had been marked in flame from 
heaven. “ Good God ! If you refuse ...” 

Laura shook her head sadly : 

“ I can't refuse. I would if I could. I’ve been brought 
up to believe that when people are married, there can be 
no new marriage while they’re both living ...” 

“ Then . . . ! ” Max cried hopefully. 

She shook her head. 

“He’s not asking me to marry again. If he marries 

again after I've divorced him, he’d say that was his 

affair. If I don’t give in now, I must give in later. He'll 

say I'm ruining his career, he can’t think or breathe 

without this . . . child to inspire him. He can squeeze 

me in so many ways. Tony . . . Ever since our mother 

died, I've felt responsible for Tony. I’ve no savings. 

I ve not been allowed to collect any. I must give in.” 

There was a long silence ; and, when she spoke again, 

her voice had regained its calm as though the last battle 

was over. I shall set out my terms quite clearly,” 

she resumed, half to herself. “ He must make Tony 
secure . . .” 



“ THE MAN HIMSELF BEING JUDGE ” 287 


Livingstone returned to say that Rushforth had arrived 
that moment from the country and was closeted with 
his brother-in-law. 

" Making him see reason, I hope," the solicitor added, 
without conviction. 

Max decided that the issue must be desperate for Tony 
to have cut short his visit to the Orpingtons. Potent 
and terrifying was the shadow that had stolen over the 
gorse and bracken of Sussex to the safe, consoling walls 
of Selhurst. Tony was threatened with destitution. As 
in the first days of the war, “ the end of all things ’’ 
yawned at his feet. He, even he, Max felt, must be 
recognizing that, if Sheridan insisted on a divorce, every 
man of self-respect must come out boldly on the one 
side or the other; and he must come out boldly on 
behalf of his sister. Once out, he must stay out ; it was 
impossible to denounce Sheridan at one moment and 
to take his money at the next. He must forgo the 
reflected glory which he derived from "Ambrose , my 
brother-in-law ”, "my brother-in-law Ambrose Sheridan . 
And then ? 

The door was thrown open ; and Tony came in moodily 
with a vague nod to the group by the fire-place. 

" He refused to discuss anything,” he announced. 

" He’ll have to discuss things before I help him to 
commit political suicide,” said Livingstone. 

Tony emptied a chair of papers and threw himself 


into it. . 

" He won’t allow it is suicide. He thinks the public 

is in the mood to forgive him whatever he does. If he s 
wrong, he says, it won't matter. Everything will have 
blown over and been forgotten in a year. And it will 
suit him very well to work quietly for six months or so 


on his new scheme.” 

“ But, if Orpington resigns—as he threatens Sheridan 
won't get six months,” said Livingstone. " The papers 



288 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


are making him a hot favourite. The moment a vacancy 
occurs . . . That’s about the one thing that will stop 
him in his present mood.” 

" Unless . . .” Tony muttered, with a glance at his 
sister. 

Laura shook her head and walked to the door. 

“ I promised him, you see,” she explained. “ If they 
were of the same mind in six months . . .” 

Then she went to her room. It was impossible to say 
again that she was unready to be told she was spoiling 
her husband’s life. If only she could get a moment with 
him, she could promise there would be no opposition 
from her ; but more and more people were coming to 
see him, their cars and taxis were stretching farther than 
her eye could reach and the door was opening and shutting 
every few minutes. 

“ Whatever you will, my dear one,” she whispered, 
dropping on her knees beside her bed. " It always has 
been, hasn't it ? You might know it always would be. 
Truly, I’ve been thinking of you the whole time. I can 
forgive any one if you're happy. Whatever you will . . . 
And whenever you will. We won’t say good-bye, because 
you may need me. I shall never be far away. You are 
keeping my heart with you. And I ... I’m taking 
away the memory of all our happiness together. Thank 
God for that ! You don't grudge it . . . ? ” 

She checked in her whispered soliloquy, finding her 
eyes damp and her lips trembling. This was no way to 
steel herself for the encounters that lay ahead, for the 
parting, for the aimless empty years after. If she could 
only say, as Fouch£ said of the Third Empire : ” It 
was good fun while it lasted ” ; if she could be light of 
tone or cynical, it might help her to straighten her back 
and keep her head erect. Of the last twenty years, ten 
bad been such that no one, surely, could want them to 
be prolonged. 



" THE MAN HIMSELF BEING JUDGE ” 289 


“ If I remembered how often he’d been unfaithful to 


me . . she began. 

The memory, nevertheless, brought no bitterness with 
it. Early in their married life she had found him untruth¬ 
ful ; later he shewed himself to be vindictive, though 
he talked of “self-defence" and of “teaching people 
a lesson " ; he was unscrupulous, cruel and childishly 
vain. And still she loved him. Was it that his own love 
in the first years atoned for all that he made her suffer 
afterwards? Did his faults make him more human, 
reducing him from a god she must worship to a boy she 

could mother ? 

“ I shall remember that I once won your love and 
then tried all my life to deserve it. I shall remember that 
I believed in you and that sometimes you said I had 
helped you. No one can rob me of the days when you 
lost faith and the days when you were ill and the times 
we won through together. God gave me twenty years 
of you ; and for ten of them you belonged to me. I shall 

remember that." 

She telephoned downstairs to say that she would 
lunch in her room. To-morrow, at this time ? How many 
more days and nights would she spend here, looking 
down on the tree-tops in the noonday sun or, in e 
gathering dusk, watching the red sky darken till the 
imperious towers of Westminster melted into the night . 
The furniture in this beloved room they had chosen 
together; the tortoise-shell toilet-set on the dull-gold 
table ; everything. Would this be Aunol’s room, or 
would they take another house ? Had he memories to 
bury, or would the house change for him when her own 
autumnal presence withdrew before this new dancing 


figure of springtime ? 

“ How long ...?** 

She dared not ask herself in 
double intoxication would last 


words how long this first 
The Otways, she had 

T 



290 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

always heard, had a dash of quixotism in their character ; 
and, if Auriol found her husband betraying a friend or 
dishonouring an enemy, it would be idle to say that he 
had himself been dishonoured or betrayed by others, 
that he was striking before he could be struck, that 
politics was a rough school, or worst of all, that the end 
must justify the means. 

“ Please God she won’t find him out till she's learnt 
to love him.” 

More remote but no less persistent than before, the 
front door was opening and closing. They were wasting 
their time, Mr. Livingstone and Max and Tony : here¬ 
after Ambrose and Auriol must decide, ultimately they 
would be their own judges. 

“ Who is with Mr. Sheridan now ? ” she asked the 
footman who brought her luncheon. 

“ Miss Colthurst, madam.” 

Laura found that she had forgotten Miss Colthurst. 
She wondered how Ambrose would dispose of her. 



CHAPTER IV 


The Dynastic Question 


“ Well, how was it the due succession fell 
From priest to priest who ministered i' the cool 
Calm fane o’ the Clitumnian god ? The sire 
Brought forth a son and sacerdotal sprout, 

Endowed instinctively with good and grace 
To suit the gliding gentleness below— 

Did he ? Tradition tells another tale. 

Each priest obtained his predecessor’s staff, 

Robe, fillet and insignia, blamelessly, 

Bv springing out of ambush, soon or late, 

And slaying him : the initiative rite 
Simply was murder, save that murder took, 

I' the case, another and religious name. 

So it was once, is now, shall ever be 

With genius and its priesthood in this world : 

The new power slays the old—but handsomely.” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohcnsticl-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 

I 

A T two o’clock Sheridan telephoned to say that 
he was having his luncheon sent upstairs to Laura's 

room. . , . . , . , 

When he arrived, rubbing his hands at the sight of 
food and at the recollection of a profitable morning, 
Laura was reminded of Max's description of him as in 
great form". Already he had silenced Tony, overborne 
Mr. Livingstone and outwitted Max; he looked like 
a boxer at a country fair, challenging each and all to 

stand up against him. 

“ The papers ? ” he asked, as Laura turned to greet 

him. " I’ve not had time to see 'em yet." 

“ You’ve a good press," she told him. “ I was wonder¬ 

ing .. . 


291 



292 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“ The papers say what I tell them to say,” he boasted. 
“ I’m not such a fool as to undertake a big job single- 
handed and then proclaim that I don’t think much of 
my own work. You were wondering . . . ? ” 

“ Whether this was a good time . . . Please under¬ 
stand I’m not going back on my promise, but every one 
tells me Lord Orpington is going to resign ...” 

“ I smoothed him down yesterday. He’ll resign 
ultimately, but at my time.” 

“ The cabinet's waiting for you, as soon as there’s 
a vacancy.” 

" It must continue to wait,” said Sheridan, inspecting 
the dishes before him and beginning to load his plate. 
“ I’m not ready for it yet.” 

Laura ate for a few minutes in silence before venturing 
to counsel him again : 

“ The prime minister feels very strongly about divorce. 
You heard about Kenneth Doyle ? ” 

“ Kenneth Doyle is equally insignificant in office and 
in opposition. And I should think more of the prime 
minister’s feelings if I believed he would still be prime 
minister in a year’s time. I’m sorry these things have 
to be, Laura . . .” 

“ Isn’t it easiest for us to accept it as inevitable ? ” 
she asked uncomplainingly. “ If we treat it simply as a 
business matter . . . ? ” 

“ But it isn’t! ” The interruption had thrown him out 
of his stride and broken down his arrogance. He spoke 
impatiently, as though to chide her for being blind to 
his romance and for trying to cut short an interesting 
essay in self-justification. “ A business matter ? I’m 
evidently not to be given credit for any human feelings. 
Business . . . I’ve not enjoyed these last six months, 
Laura. I wonder very much if we shouldn’t have done 
better to end everything ten years ago.” 

“We were happy in the early days. And for the last 



THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 293 

ten years I’ve always felt that if we could get back to 
them . . 

" That’s it! " Abandoning his meal, Sheridan pushed 
his chair back and began to pace between the long windows 
at the end of the room. “ The static temperament. After 
a certain time women cease to develop : their vision, 
their energy are absorbed by their children, their houses ; 
they don’t grow with their surroundings. If I’d stopped 
too, ten years ago, we might have been happy ; but my 
temperament is dynamic. The vision of yesterday became 
the achievement of to-day. If I stopped, I should die. 
And I felt I was stopping. I lacked inspiration. If we’d 
had children . . . What was the good of piling up money 
or accumulating honours if I had no one to leave them 
to ? When you talk of a ‘ business matter ’ . . .” 
He looked up with returning impatience, but the figure 
by the table had disappeared. “ Laura ! ” he called out; 
but the handle clicked as the door closed behind her. 
“ A ‘ business matter'," he repeated, dropping into a 
chair and staring across the Park at the grey towers of 
Westminster. 

II 

Now that it was too late to retract, Sheridan regretted 
that allusion to children. It had hurt Laura, who seemed 
to mind less that she had ceased to attract him than 
that she had failed to provide him with an heir. 

“ Though why she thinks I should trouble to marry, 
otherwise ..." he grumbled. “ Life’s short enough 

without needless worries." ... 

It was this very shortness of life, as youth melted into 

middle-age and as one contemporary after another stood 
aside in favour of a new generation, that first impressed 
and then haunted Sheridan with the transience of one 
man’s achievement. When he died, he would become 
for three days a news-item of first-rate importance; 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


294 

and his own papers at least would mourn him with 
leaded margins. Historians might refer to his present 
work as they referred to Durham’s settlement of Canada ; 
his name, like that of Rhodes, might be kept alive by the 
endowment of scholarships ; but this was not Ambrose 
Sheridan nor his ghost nor his memory. Laura had 
failed to give him the son who would reproduce his build 
and features, filling his room, continuing his policy, 
inheriting and adding to his honours, moving from 
strength to strength when he himself lay like the cast 
skin of a snake 

Laura, no doubt, would say that he had forbidden 
her to have children when she wanted them ; but no 
woman who wanted children would allow herself to be 
forbidden. 

When they married, so tragically young, he had failed 
—like all young people—to think of old age and death 
as things that would come to him too. Laura did not 
realize it yet, or she would not have talked inanely of 
the peerage that he could have for the asking. “ First 
Baron Sheridan .” What worth had that, if it were 
followed by the statement that Lord Sheridan had died 
without issue ? 

Not sparing time to realize that he had driven his wife 
from her own room, Sheridan finished his luncheon and 
went down to the library. When a man’s work was on 
a certain plane, when the fruits of it ripened after many 
days, when it needed to be watched and protected in its 
early development, such a man—a Bismarck, a Napoleon, 
a Cromwell ; or, if these names sounded too big, a Cow- 
dray, a Northcliffe, a Selfridge—must needs think 
dynastically. If the problem of this age was security, 
one man might shew the means of making the world 
safe, but the men of the age succeeding must keep it 
safe. The saddest chapters in human history were those 
which followed the death of an Alexander or a Charle- 



THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 295 

magne and recorded the collapse of their work in the hands 
of their ineffectual heirs. 

“ And, by the way,” Sheridan told himself, " if any 
one promised security to the people of this country, they 
wouldn’t wait to ask if their saviour of society had 
passed through the divorce-court.” 

Wheeling a desk to the light of the long windows, he 
began to make notes. Security : if the people wanted 
security, he could promise it to them ultimately. All 
but the blind recognized that England in 1924 was no 
farther removed from war than England in 1914 ; verbal 
goodwill between nations and the pious hopes of impotent 
leagues would collapse before the first mobilization 
order. If England was to be saved, she must save herself 
by organizing her empire and by collecting the English- 

speaking peoples into one union. 

The blue-grev towers of Westminster set him dreaming 
of the day when an empire should find itself and the 
senators from Canada and New Zealand should walk to 
their places in the first imperial congress. The land, 
the money and the men ; the resources and communica¬ 
tions • the experience and the will were all there if some 
one would only organize them. One law, one language 
and one currency from Hudson's Bay to Gough Island 
and from Socotra to Hong Kong. A Pax Bntannua 
over one fifth of the inhabited globe ; an empire of th 
west and east, with its capitals in Washington and 
London The future of the world lay with the English 
speaking peoples; but their heritage was threatened 
so long as they remained unorganized against needless, 

rhancc W3.rs. Security. • • . 

Sheridan was roused from his dream by a 00 man 

who came in to say that Miss Colthurst had called. 

“ Again ? Shew her in,” he answered. When the girl 
arrived that morning, unasked and unwanted, she had 
seemed hysterical and he had been careful to see her only 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 



in the presence of witnesses. “ I can give you a minute, 
but it mustn’t be more than a minute,” he began as the 
door opened and closed again. “ Well, where have you 
decided to live ? ” 

“ I haven’t thought.” The girl looked at him for a 
moment and then lowered her eyes in confusion. “ It's . .. 
it’s something else. I came to tell you . . . It’s . . .” 

She sank into a chair and began to sob. 

“ What's the matter ? Crying never did any good to 
any one,” Sheridan told her sharply. 

“ I c-can’t help it. The doctor . . .” 

As she hesitated, Sheridan’s hand moved towards the 
bell. The hysteria was now explained. He allowed no 
one, however, to blackmail him. 

“ Well ? ” 


“ He ... he says I’m going to have a baby,” Evelyn 
whispered in a single breath. 

“ That was not very . . discreet of you,” Sheridan 
observed. 

“ Oh . . . ! ” 


She seemed too much startled even to cry; and he 
could consider her dispassionately without the annoy¬ 
ance of a scene. In the first place, was her story true ? 
Others had pitched him a similar yarn ; and he remem¬ 
bered wondering, at their last interview on board, whether 
Evelyn would essay some stroke of stupid cunning to 
keep him. To be convincing, she should have prepared 
her effects instead of trying to stampede him : initial 
misgiving, then uncertainty, now blank dismay would 
have been more artistic than this whirlwind of emotion. 
“ what are y° u going to do about it ? ” he asked. 

The girl looked up in amazement, as though she had 
expected him to furnish a solution ; but in all negotiations 
Sheridan found that he saved time by letting other 
people set up the ninepins instead of knocking down 
those which he arranged. 



THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 297 


“ I . . don’t know,” she faltered. 

“ The best thing would be for you to marry,” he 
propounded. “ A pretty girl, with money of her own 
and a house somewhere . . .” He was considering once 
again the possibilities of Geoffrey Mallock, when the 
telephone-bell rang. ” Yes ? ” 

The voice of Tony Rushforth, distant and nasal, was 
repeating monotonously : " Hullo ! . . . Hullo ! . . . 

Hullo ! . . .” Then the voice quickened. " Is that Mr. 
Sheridan ? Tony speaking. I hoped to see you again 
before I left, but there were so many people. ... If 
you go on as you seem to intend, you must see I can’t 
continue to act for you. I’ve done the straight thing 
in warning you at the first possible moment . . .” 

Sheridan forgot his mounting irritation in vast and 
disabling amusement. Tony, being valiant by trunk- 
call, was like a terrier yapping at the heels of an elephant, 
from the far side of protecting bars. 

“ You may be sure I’m grateful,” Sheridan began in 

ponderous irony. 

“ Good-bye,” snapped Tony. 

As he hung up the receiver, Sheridan found that 
Evelyn had, apparently, been talking ever since they 
were interrupted. He found, too, that the worldly veneer 
of the last six months was splintering and that the gaping 
general messenger, the genteel personal secretary an 
the pliant voluptuary had reverted to the distracted 
daughter of a city cashier, fearful of neighbours and 
hungry for bourgeois respectability. A girl of better 
brains or greater spirit, he reflected, would have built 
a career on the chance that had lifted her from the 
cramping drudgery of middle-class life; but Evelyn 

was set fast in the grip of Enfield. „ 

“ No one's going to marry me like I am now, she was 


whimpering. 

“ The man you marry 


will never know,” he broke in. 



298 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“ You’ve seen the great world, Evelyn There’s no 
reason why you shouldn’t make a really good match . . 

The revolving chair, tilting gently backwards and 
forwards, became suddenly still. Why in the world 
should Tony not marry this Colthurst girl ? Young 
Hendry had hinted that Tony was laying siege to one 
of the Selhursts, but a line to Orpington, invoking his 
patronage for Tony and damning Tony with the faintest 
of praise, would soon scotch that indiscretion. 

Evelyn, meanwhile, had forgotten her troubles in the 
glamour of a “really good match”. He set himself to 
put her conversion beyond the pale of recantation : 

“ All pretty women are clever so long as they don't 
try to talk intelligently. You’re gracious if you smile 
enough ; sympathetic if you let other people bore you ; 
charming if you pretend to be interested. As you can't 
run a house, you must pay some one to run it for you; 
and pretend you’ve never had to bother about house¬ 
keeping. Don t bluff too much, though. You can say 
you were delicate as a child and had no proper education. 
You are I are old friends . . . And we are friends," 
he added with a change of voice. “ I’m going to look 
after you. As soon as we’ve settled things . . ." 

Putting his arm round her shoulders, Sheridan drew 

the girl to him. Passion was dying before they were half 

way across the Atlantic, he had certified its death when 

he broke his six months’ silence to Auriol, but a chapter 

in the life of his child’s mother would always belong to 

him, it would have to be bound up in his own secret 
autobiography. 

I m all right now,” she whispered in contrition for 
her earlier lamentations. 

He must be somebody I can approve of,” Sheridan 

reminded her. “ Excuse me ! " he exclaimed, as the 
telephone-bell rang again. 

This time it was Auriol Otway at the other end of 



THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 299 

the line, inviting him—at last!—to lunch with her next 
day. 

Ill 

On his way to Manchester Square, Sheridan considered 
the best mode of approaching the family which Auriol 
was so much afraid of hurting. 

Unlike most of the men whom he met in business, 
Lord Otway could be neither bribed nor frightened. 
Candour, on the other hand, if it failed to win him, 
would certainly embarrass him ; and, encountering his 
host in the hall, Sheridan asked for a moment's conver¬ 
sation in private. 

“You remember the last time I was here ..." he 
began. 

“ Just before you sailed,” Lord Otway recalled. “ I 
hope you feel your mission was a success.” 

“ That will be for others to say. It has done good on 
personal grounds. I've had time to think.” Sheridan 
looked up to see that the door was shut and then took 
up his position in front of the fire, where he could dominate 
the room and, in particular, the chair in which Lord Otway 
sat erect, closely buttoned and unyielding. For all his 
shyness of manner and diffidence in argument, this 
fellow—he decided—was going to be a tough nut to crack. 
He was wiry and well-trained. In spite of his London 
clothes, the old boy looked always as though he had 
arrived from the country an hour before and was returning 
to the country an hour later. His thin, clean-shaven 
face was brick-red from the end of his nose to the tips of 
his ears and suggested a good dinner overnight, six hours 
of dreamless sleep, a gallop before breakfast and a cold 
bath. “ I told you then that my marriage had not been a 

success. I've decided to bring it to an end. 

Lord Otway placed his hat and umbrella on the table, 

glancing anxiously at the clock. 



300 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“A luncheon engagement,” he explained, tucking and 
folding himself into his overcoat as though he were apply¬ 
ing a surgical dressing. His high collars and tight black 
stocks would have choked most other men ; and his 
close-fitting frock-coat tempted inquisitive strangers to 
look for signs of stays. “ Yes, I remember. ... I felt 
then, I feel now, that it’s a question only you and Mrs. 
Sheridan can decide.” 9 

“ We have decided not to spoil each other's lives any 
longer. I m telling you this because it will concern you 
when my present marriage is dissolved.” 

For the present, then . .” Lord Otway began. 

Frankly, I hope to see Auriol marrying a man nearer 
her in age.” 

tt Sh e s so much older than her age,” Sheridan asserted. 

In brains, perhaps. Not in experience. When I was 
your age, I hadn’t many illusions left, Sheridan, about life, 
business, politics or the honour and integrity of the men 
and women I met. I’d like Auriol to believe for a little 
longer that all her geese were swans.” Lord Otway’s 
brick-red face darkened in passing embarrassment as he 
looked up into Sheridan’s unwavering gray eyes. “Auriol’s 
experience of men is hardly on a par with your experience 
of women.” 

” Nor with that of any normal man.” 

“ Of your age. That’s my point.” 

My marriage has been unsuccessful. Isn’t it more 
important to consider how I shall behave in the future 
than how I may have behaved in the past ? I am in love 
with Auriol ; I believe she is in love with me.” 

Ultimately she will be the person to decide. ... I 

must ask you to excuse me ! I expect we shall find her 
in her room.” 

1 hey came upon Auriol, bare-armed and sw’athed in an 
apron, arranging flowers. Sheridan fancied that she was 
pale. Lord Otway noticed that her hand was unsteady. 



30 i 


THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 

“ Mr. Sheridan’s here, my dear,” said her father. 

A sharp tinkle, following a muffled scream, rang out 
as the vase she was holding shivered on the floor. 

“ You . . . ! ” Auriol began. “ You startled me, 
daddy,” she added in a quick recovery. As the colour 
flamed into her cheeks, Sheridan dropped on one knee 
and began to mop her skirt with his handkerchief. “ Oh, 
it doesn’t matter ! Please get up ! How . . . how are 
you ? ” 

Though her cheeks were still flushed, Auriol could look 
Sheridan in the eyes ; and her father’s face set rigidly. 
So young, so fragile, so soft and fragrant beside this 
towering soldier of fortune, who stood, not speaking, 
hardly smiling, as though he were defying her to resist. 

The tableau was resolved when Lady Otway came in, 
sunny, frank and universally sceptical. 

“ I guessed you were having it out in the smoking-room, 
so I didn't ' butt in', as Auriol would say,” she explained. 
“It's always more comfortable to know where you are, 
isn’t it ? If anybody ever does, which I doubt; and, 
when you do, you’re generally more uncomfortable than 
you were before. Well, if the papers are to be believed, 
you must have had a wonderful time, Mr. Sheridan. 

How are you ? ” 

“ I’m very well, thank you.” 

” And your wife ? ” 

As they went in to luncheon, Sheridan wondered whether 
it was stupidity or malice that led Lady Otway always 
to enquire so pointedly about a wife whom she had never, 

so far as he knew, even met. 

“ She’s as well as can be expected,” he answered. As 
you may imagine, it’s not a very happy or comfortable 

time for either of us.” 

“ You’re going through with . . . this idea of yours . 

“ Surely. I think you must have seen, Lady Otway, 
when last we discussed this subject ...” 



302 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“ Dear Mr. Sheridan, I saw it was no affair of mine / 
I see that still. It’s no use crossing the bridge till you get 
to the stream, is it ? " she asked, as though she were 
defining the agreed attitude of the family. “ Now we 
want to hear all about your travels. You went first to 
India and Ceylon . . . ? " 

“ By way of Malta and Cyprus," Sheridan interposed. 

Lady Otway allowed him to tell his story in his own 
way while she transferred her attention to Auriol. Mr. 
Sheridan’s personality, she felt, was impressive ; his 
touch romantic. Though he was supposed to be telling 
the tale of his mission, the rich garnerings of earlier 
years kept bursting their doors ; and at every digression 
into the picturesque Auriol ranged herself at his side. 

As he fought and climbed, slipping and picking himself 
up again, Auriol was no doubt fancying that she had 
picked herself up with him, nursing him, comforting him, 
sharing his triumphs. Their problems, Lady Otway felt, 
would be easier if in fact the child had this foundation 
of common endurance ; but, though she could hypnotize 
herself now, like George the Fourth persuading himself 
that he had been present at the battle of Waterloo, a 
time would come when she realized, first, that she had not 
been alive at the time, then that another woman had not 
only been alive but present, then that this other woman 
had been as completely forgotten as if she had never lived. 
The man who could forget one wife might forget another 

The Odyssey was interrupted by the butler with a 
message that Mr. Sheridan was wanted at the telephone. 

"A penny for your thoughts, darling," said Auriol 
as the door closed 

“ I was contrasting you with Imogen and Joyce," 
answered Lady Otway. If I hadn’t the best evidence 
to the contrary, I should say you were a changeling. 
That’s not what you mean, though, is it ? ... On the 
whole I like Mr. Sheridan, though perhaps I should like 



THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 303 

him better if I heard he was dead. But I realize that my 
little Auriol is never going to be content with the sort of 
man who was good enough for her sisters. . . Ah, 

Mr. Sheridan, no bad news, I hope ? " 

" It was only Willoughby,” answered Sheridan with a 
frown. “ Standish’s secretary, you know.” 

Auriol clasped her hands and looked at him with wide- 
open eyes: 

” What did he want ? Oh, he could only want one 
thing. It’s the cabinet ! ” 

Sheridan laughed indulgently and, having got rid of 
the frown, tried to keep it from returning : 

” We should have an even more unwieldy cabinet if a 
new place had to be found every time the prime minister 
sent for any one. I should imagine he wants to talk 

about my report.” 

“ You don’t really believe that.” 

“ I certainly hope it's nothing more. If he wants me to 
undertake any new work before I’ve finished the old, 
I'm afraid I should have to decline.” 

“ But you wouldn’t refuse the cabinet ? ” 

“ I’m afraid I should.” In spite of himself, Sheridan 
smiled at her strange want of understanding. “For half- 
a dozen reasons. It's out of the question at the present 

time.” 

IV 

On his return home that afternoon from Downing 
Street, Sheridan decided that by burning his boats he 
could at least keep his critics and advisers from arguing 
with him whether they should be burnt or not. 

“If,” he wrote to Livingstone, ” I did not make myself 
clear yesterday morning, please understand that I want 
you to go ahead at once.” 

So committed, he went to his wife’s room with a fair 
expectation that she would not try again to upset his 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


304 

decision. For the first time since all this trouble began, 
he could feel—and, if necessary, declare—that something 
irrevocable had at last been done. 

“ You’ll hear about it sooner or later,” he began. 
“ I may as well tell you now that Standish sent for me 
this afternoon.” 

Laura's mode of clasping her hands and looking at 
him with wide-open eyes reminded him of Auriol. 

“ To offer . . . ? ” 

He sat down and described the interview with careful 
choice of language. After congratulating him on his report, 
Mr. Standish had referred jocularly to the urgent advice 
of certain papers that a place should be found in the 
government for Mr. Ambrose Sheridan. What did Mr. 
Sheridan think of the advice ? This, it could not be 
understood too clearly, was an informal conversation ; 
Mr. Standish had not wasted time in taking the opinions 
of his colleagues until he had ascertained Mr. Sheridan's 
own views. 

“ What did you say ? ” asked Laura. 

“ Having made no offer,” Sheridan answered con¬ 
temptuously, “ Standish told me to think it over. I 
told him ”—an echo of Lord Otway rang opportunely— 
“ I told him this was really a thing for his precious col¬ 
leagues and him to decide. Whether they want me, I 
mean. ... I thought I’d mention it, because I passed 
a news-bill on the way here with * Mr. Sheridan at 
No. 10.” 

“ But was that all ? ” 

Sheridan hesitated before answering. He could describe 
the second part of the interview as easily as the first, 
but it would involve him in a discussion and he would find 
himself considering, perhaps seeking, Laura’s advice. 
With a queer instinct that collapsed under examination 
and reasserted itself obstinately when the examination 
was over, she had the power of seeing in the dark. This, 



THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 305 

however, seemed hardly the moment for him to invoke 
the power. 

“ We had a general talk," he conceded vaguely. 

“ Did he say anything about Lord Orpington ? ” 

“ Whether he’s going to resign ? I told you yesterday 
he isn’t. I smoothed him down on Saturday.” 

“ Did you give him the promise he wanted ? ” 

“ That I wouldn’t presume to criticize him again ? 
Likely, isn’t it ? I told him to put himself in my place 
and imagine he was responsible for a number of papers ...” 

“ If you didn't give him that promise,” Laura inter¬ 
rupted, “ the smoothing down goes for nothing. He 
wants to retire . . .” 

“And other people want him to retire too; and to 
retire at once. Notably, our friend Otway. I know all 
about that. If Orpington resigned to-morrow and I were 
offered his place next day, friend Otway thinks he’d hear 
no more talk of a divorce. It doesn’t occur to him that, 
because a thing’s offered, it need not necessarily be 
accepted. I have my hands full of important, public work.” 

Laura nodded without speaking. Disraeli had once 
said : “Ask for nothing, refuse nothing, resign nothing ” ; 
and the advice was not unsound. Ambrose could form no 
new alliance with liberalism or labour; and, high as he 
had climbed, he would never realize his dream of gathering 
all the old party-labels into a bonfire and leading an ideal 
amalgam of all parties. Political self-expression must 
come through the conservative party ; and Mr. Standish s 
administration would not continue for ever. When it 
fell, there might be a labour interlude for half-a-dozen 
years; and, when the pendulum swung back again, 
there could hardly be a greater difference in politics 
than between a man who had held office and a man who 
had refused office. 

' “ It would be worth your while to postpone things, 
she ventured at last. 



306 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

He did not need to enquire what “ things ” she had in 
mind. 

“And wait till I was in the cabinet before springing 
the mine ? You all tell me I should have to resign.” 

“ Then postpone them even longer. While you're out 
of office, there may be time for it to be forgotten. Am¬ 
brose, I know I’m right ! It’s another trap.” 

“ I doubt if Standish would make me colonial secretary 
straight away in any event. He certainly wouldn't do it 
to help Otway on with a little family intrigue.” 

“No, Mr. Standish isn’t bothering about that He 
wants to stop your mouth. We’ve seen it again and again ! 
When a critic becomes too troublesome, you make him 
share responsibility for everything he’s been criticizing. 
If you postponed things . .” 

She broke off and sat staring out of the window 
again. 

“ I’ve burnt my boats, quite deliberately,” said Sheri¬ 
dan. ” I always realized that I might have to wait for a 
time. That was one reason, you may remember, why I 
didn’t want to waste an entirely unnecessary’ six months,” 
he continued resentfully “ If we could have got this 
over while I was still abroad.” . . . 

“ I hoped there’d be nothing to get over. If Lord 
Orpington does resign, you can’t afford to refuse. This is 
your tide, you must catch it. Ambrose, you must be 
patient . . .” 

He shook his head. Seven months before she had 
advised him to be patient ; and he had missed his tide. 
If once he listened to reasons for postponement, they would 
be manufactured anew every week ; and she must have 
forgotten the fierce urge of love to suggest it. 

Too late to think of things like that,” he answered 
abruptly. “ If I must wait, I must.” A memory of his late 
successes came to comfort him. “ I think you’ll find, 
when the struggle begins ... I'm more confident than 



THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 307 

you are. Until he meets it, Standish won’t realize what 
he's up against. I shan’t say anything, I shall leave it to 
others. I said nothing yesterday when Livingstone told 
me that I should have the church and the court and god- 
knows-what all on my back. He left out the people. 
The people whom I represent, the people from whom I 
sprang." 

Laura looked at her watch without attempting to 
answer. When he was in one of his arrogant moods, 
opposition only inflated his arrogance. Until the mood 
passed, he would not see that he was throwing away the 
cardinal opportunity of his political life. And there 
was no one else to see it for him, now that Mr. Livingstone 
had been overwhelmed. He had no other friends. This 
Otway child probably mistook recklessness for courage 
and arrogance for strength. 

Still looking at her watch, Laura slowly realized that 
she had made up her mind to save him and was trying 
to calculate whether she had time to begin before dinner. 
Though she had never met Auriol, she was convinced that 
the girl would listen to reason. It was only a postpone¬ 
ment she was trying to achieve. In her interest as much 
as in his ; in the interest of any one that cared for 

Ambrose or believed in him. 

“ Don't accept anything or refuse anything without 

telling me," she begged. 

“ Nothing’s been offered me yet.” 

As soon as she was alone, Laura put on her hat and 
slipped out of the house. She had hailed a taxi before 
she remembered that she did not know Lord Otway's 
number ; and, rather than risk a meeting with Ambrose, 
she drove first to her club and hunted for the address in 
a telephone-directory. Manchester Square. As she got 
into the taxi again, she found that she was trembling 
from head to foot. This encounter would be unbearable ; 
and yet she must bear it. If the girl had the mercilessness 



308 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

of youth, she must surely have also the forbearance of 
breeding. Ambrose would never forgive them if he learned 
that they were conspiring to save him ; but that could 
not be helped. The girl would not refuse to see her ? 

Half-way to Manchester Square, Laura stopped the 
taxi and began to walk home. Then, in furious self¬ 
scorn, she hailed another. Her courage ebbed to a com¬ 
promise ; if Miss Otway were not at home, she would 
accept this as an augury. Then she tried to make her mind 
a blank in the hope of steadying her nerves. “ Not at 
home." “ Engaged for the moment, madam” “Away from 
town " : if only the girl were not at home. . . . 

Laura opened her eyes at the scraping of the taxi 
against the kerb. This was the square, the house ; and 
on the steps stood the girl. 

V 

“ Miss Otway ? ” Though she had never seen her 
before, Mrs. Sheridan recognized the forehead, nose and 
mouth from photographs in the illustrated papers. “ Can 
you spare me a few minutes ? " 

“ Yes, of course." As she opened the door and stood 
aside, Auriol looked at her visitor’s face ; but the head 
was bent under a low hat. “ Come into my room if you 
don’t mind a muddle. Let me see . . . ? " 

As she paused interrogatively, Laura swayed and caught 
at the back of a chair. 

“ I’m ... I’m all right," she told Auriol. “ I’ve been 
sleeping so badly. I wanted to see you about ... I 
think you know Ambrose Sheridan ..." 

“ But, excuse me . . . ? " Auriol began. 

“ 0h > I haven’t told you ! I'm his wife.” 

“His ... ? Oh ! " 

For several minutes neither spoke. As though they were 
at the end of their contest instead of the beginning, both 
were breathing quickly ; and Laura could see the blood 



THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 



throbbing in Auriol’s neck, mantling her cheeks and rising 
painfully to her head. 

“You must think it strange of me to force my way 
in like this/' she murmured. “ I hardly know where to 
begin. I want to say . . He simply can’t afford a 
scandal at the present time. You must be in love with him 
or you wouldn't be doing this. I . . . well, he's everything 
to me. Can’t you . . . postpone things ? If you don't, 
you’ll cost him the cabinet.” 

“ He says he wouldn’t take the cabinet if it were offered 
him,” Auriol answered. 

“ He can’t afford to refuse it. His position will never 
be as high again. Opportunities don’t wait for you in 
politics ; there will be younger men coming on.” 

“ In two years the government won't be able to get 
on without him. Less than two years.” 

The words were confident enough, but the voice was 
that of an eager child declaiming some one else's dramatic 
speech. 

“ I thought, if we could have a little talk . ” Laura 

began. “ You've not known him very long ...” 

“ We’ve had six months to think it over,” Auriol 
sighed. 

“I’ve had twenty years, to think over him, to think 
what marriage means ...” 

“ And isn't that enough ? ” 

“ I don't follow,” said Laura, though the purport of 
the question was clear enough. After twenty years of 
failure, a crushed and faded woman could not want to 
stand longer in her husband's way. “ How old are you ? ” 
she asked. 

“ Twenty-two. Please don’t say I’m too young . . .” 

“ I was your age when I met him first! And he was 
two years younger. ... I was thinking what a sweet 
little thing you looked. And I adore bright colours. . . . 
You give him your youth, certainly . . .” 



310 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

Her tone sounded disparaging ; and Auriol’s cheeks 
wanned. 

“ I give him myself,” she answered. “ I can't give 
more.” 

“You give yourself to be loved, not to be . . . hurt. 
You’re not sacrificing anything ; and I feel—I’m seeing 
it for the first time—I feel you can only stick to people 
when you've given them your heart’s blood and made them 
worth while. Every woman is fonder of the delicate chil¬ 
dren who wear her out to keep them alive. Miss Otway ...” 
She bit her lips and fell silent. 

With a movement that was hardly seen, Auriol came 
to her side and knelt by her chair: 

" This is so dreadful for you ! ” 

“ Miss Otway, I gave up my chance of having children 
for him, though I knew at the time we should need them 
to keep us together. If you rob him of his career, he'll 
reproach you afterwards as he has reproached me. 
Nothing’s ever his fault. . . , That wasn't what I meant 
to say, though. If you would make a sacrifice for him .. 

" I will make any sacrifice he asks.” 

“ Then . . . No ! ” Laura dragged herself from the 
chair as though the girl's proximity were numbing her. 
“ ft I say I believe all he tells you—that he can’t work 
without you and the rest—won't you believe any one 
who tells you that you're ruining him ? Ask Lord Orping¬ 
ton, who’s in the place that Ambrose wants to fill I 
Ask Mr. Standish himself ! ” 

“ He can>t hope for office till things have been for¬ 
gotten,” Auriol conceded. 

And he mustn t refuse office when the chance comes ! 
You can make him or break him. Can’t you take off 
your spell before it’s too late ? Go away ! ” 

If I went away, he d go away too . . . out of England, 
parlkonent, public life. It’s better that he should wait 

a year or two than disappear altogether. It’s better * . 



THE DYNASTIC QUESTION 311 

" You realize it won’t go on for ever ? ” interrupted 
Laura. " One wife was never enough for him. Miss 
Otway . . ." She turned with desperate resolution : 
“ Miss Otway, if he needs you, if you mean you'll do 
anything for him, you should give yourself to him. You 
won't spoil his career then. You won’t spoil your two lives, 
for you can part quietly when you're tired of each other. 

" You mean . . " Auriol hesitated to be sure she had 
heard aright. " You mean I'm to be his mistress ? " 

" That shocks you ? How is it worse than urging me 
to divorce him so that he can marry you ? 

" I’m afraid I can't discuss it with you. I couldn’t 

refuse to see you when you came ..." 

Laura interrupted her by moving towards the door. 
Half way across the room, she checked and held out her 

hand : 

" I didn’t mean to shock you . . ." 

Auriol bit her lip in shame at having lost control of 

herself before a stranger: 

l# It was silly of me. I was startled. I know people 
do do these things ..." 

Without seeming to hurry, she reached the door and 
opened it. Laura passed out thankfully. The interview, 
hard to begin, was harder to end. This girl, in her own 
way, was more difficult to move than Ambrose. Warnings, 
entreaties shivered against her young assurance. And 
yet the entreaties should have been turned round the 
other way I As Tony, as Max reminded her, there could 
be no divorce if one spiritless woman would only have the 
courage of her convictions. 

•• What will you do il I can't bring myself to institute 
proceedings ? ” asked Laura, as they came into the hall. 
1 shall begin to doubt that you're thinking of Ambrose 

Ve ^You might both live to thank me ! When the first 
glamour is over, will you have the patience to live with 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


312 

your great man ? When he’s sixty, will you be thinking 
of younger men ? It’s not so long since you thought 
you were in love with Max Hendry.” 

Auriol’s fair skin flushed angrily at the name. 

“ We were children ! ” she exclaimed impatiently 

Forcing a smile, Laura held out her hand again : 

“ Are you much more than a child yet ? I’m wondering 
whether you’re really in love with Ambrose, whether 
you understand the meaning of love ...” 

“ Because I'm not obsessed by sex ? ” Auriol demanded 
contemptuously. “ Of course, if you’ve decided to stand 
in our way . . .” 

“ I've decided nothing,” Laura answered brokenly. 
“ Will you promise me something ? You’ve been very 
sweet and patient with me ; I want to be friends. If you 
marry Ambrose, you won’t have an easy time, but per¬ 
haps I may be able to help you. Promise that you’ll 
come to me if you ever think I can help you. I've not 
made such a success that I’m a good advertisement, but 
one never knows.” 

“ I'll promise you that,” Auriol answered. 

“ I shan’t feel he's so far away, if I have you.” 



CHAPTER V 


Nicias to Cleon 


"... Select your lord 
By the direct employment of your brains 
As best you may,—bad as the blunder prove, 

A far worse evil stank beneath the sun 
When some legitimate blockhead managed so 
Matters that high time was to interfere, 

Though interference came from hell itself 
And not the blind mad miserable mob 
Happily ruled so long by pillow-luck 
And divine right,—by lies in short, not truth.” 

Robert Browning : Prince Hohcnstiel-Schwangau, 

Saviour 0/ Society. 

I 

A S soon as he could leave London, Max went to his 
father’s house at Newmarket, only returning in time 
for Lord Orpington's dinner to the Trade Commission. 

“ I’m leavin' Sheridan," he announced in a tone that 
did not encourage Sir Mark to ask for explanations. 
“ D’you think any of your rich friends could find me a 
job ? Out of England, with a chance of some scrappin’, 
for choice. A little more of this private-secretary stunt 
and you'll find me arrangin’ flowers in the momin and 
workin’ pink butterflies on my pyjamas in the afternoon. 

Sir Mark, who was the son and grandson, as well as 
the father, of an only son, addressed himself with a certain 
resentment to a problem which he felt should not have 
arisen. If the government had refrained from taxing 
luckless landlords out of existence for the last thirty years, 
Max would not have been obliged to hunt for employment 
in competition with men who, truth to tell, were techni¬ 
cally better qualified. 

313 



314 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“ There must be openings," he answered optimistically. 

“ They shut up like oysters when they hear me cornin’," 
said Max. " I don’t care how far I go or how fever-stricken 
the place may be . . ." 

In his own phrase, Max and Auriol had been trained 
too long in the same stable ; and. if he remained in Eng¬ 
land, he would always be meeting her. There must surely, 
in this endless empire, be mounted rifles or frontier 
police to take in a man who only wanted to escape an 
obsession that was driving him mad ? When he ran 
from his chambers rather than listen to Auriol’s voice 
on the telephone, he had sworn that he would hold no 
communication with her; but vows and resolutions 
were alike powerless to keep him from thinking of her. 
Two telephone-messages in London had begged him to 
arrange a meeting ; three notes to Newmarket had de¬ 
manded that he should give her an opportunity of 
"explaining things" There was nothing, Max knew, 
that she could explain ; and it would be time enough for 
them to meet when she told him that she had made a 
mistake. If she were in love herself, she would under¬ 
stand what it meant for him to be in love with her. 

"Are you wise to leave Sheridan at this moment ? " 
asked Sir Mark. " I was lunching with Peter Orpington 
at the Jockey Club rooms ; and he talked as if he meant to 
give up. I asked who would succeed him ; and he seemed 
to think it would be Sheridan It’s a mistake to leave a 
stable when its luck is in." 

" I shall clear out of this perishin' country if I have to 
swim,” Max answered 

" If I hear of anything . . ." began his father. 

He had heard of nothing by the end of the meeting; 
and Max, who was by now well-used to the convention 
that he was hopeless, realized that any position he aspired 
to All must be won by his own efforts. 

" I don’t insist on a job if I can make sure of the 



NICIAS TO CLEON 


3i5 


scrappin’,” he muttered, as he fought his way through a 
cluster of opulent book-makers at the station. One of 
them trod on his foot to keep him from reaching the sole 
unoccupied corner-seat; and he retaliated with a well- 
directed kick. Two more closed in ; and he gave himself 
the pleasure of fending them with elbow-thrusts that sent 
them crowing for breath into the arms of a policeman and 
a guard. Then, to mark his dislike of their company, 
he chose a different compartment. “ Even that was 
something. If Sheridan had been among that lot 
I'm going to sleep." 

II 

He was composing himself when the door opened ; and, 
as he scrutinized his neighbours' faces, Max decided that, 
if he did not wake to find his pocket picked, he would be 

roused to find h s throat being cut 

“ Talk about happy half-hours with the criminal 
classes ! " he muttered. Of the six men in the carriage 
only one even looked respectable. “ Though that may 
be his cunnin'," Max felt. " If you have white mutton- 
chop whiskers and look like the old family-butler in some 
one's advertisement for huntin’-port, you can get away 
with it as a tie-pin sharp every day of your life. The 
others are murderers from the word ‘ go 
He was buttoning his note-case into its pocket when the 
nearest of the presumed cut-throats invited him to beguile 

the journey with a game of cards. 

"Afraid I don't play," Max answered. Then he caught a 
twinkle in the eyes of the neighbour whom he had classified 
variously as a butler and a tie-pin thief. " At least, he 
added in an undertone," not in a race-train with strangers. 

" It all depends on your game," answered his neighbour. 
" You remember Captain Blood ? Ah, you should read 
your Modern Traveller. ‘ He very rarely touched a card ... 
They were interrupted by a second of their suspect 



316 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

companions, who leaned across to ask if the old gentleman 
would care to take a hand. 

To Max’s surprise, the invitation was accepted with 
alacrity : 

" That is, if you really want me. I was explaining to 
this gentleman that, like the celebrated Captain Blood, 
I very rarely touch a card ; but, when I do, I . . . always 
enjoy it. You prefer to watch ? ” the old gentleman 
added to Max. “ Perhaps you’ll come in later.” 

While the others made a table out of a carriage-cushion. 
Max sat forward where he could see four hands. This 
was better than anything he had expected ; and, with 
reasonable luck, he conld count on that altercation which 
he required to clear his head. Five of the six players 
were of a type that he had met before ; but of the old 
man who likened himself enigmatically to “ Captain 
Blood ”, Max hardly knew what to make. 

“ Either he’s goin’ to be rooked,” he decided ; “ or 
they’ll use him to decoy me. He’s goin’ to be rooked,” 
he added, as the cards were shuffled and dealt with a 
certain professional ease. 

For the first half-hour the play was quiet and the 
betting low. Then flasks were produced ; the old gentle¬ 
man took a pull and accepted a cigar ; every one warmed 
to the game. So far as an outsider could see, however, 
there was nothing to arouse suspicion : the old gentleman 
was allowed his share of winning hands ; no one tried 
to force the game ; and Max returned to his paper before 
any one could suggest that he should join in. 

He abandoned it half-an-hour later when an angry 
voice cut through the mutter of the play to demand: 

“ Here, who the hell are you ? ” 

Five of the six players were staring at a straight flush 
which the old gentleman exhibited with a smile of quiet 
triumph ; two of them were on their feet; a third was 
waving a mottled fist under the dealer’s nose. 



NICIAS TO CLEON 


3i7 

“ I beg your pardon ? " said the old gentleman in artistic 
amazement. 

Max noticed a rich pool of dog’s-eared treasury notes, 
observing with surprise that the protesting players were 
too much excited to claim their share until they had 
settled accounts with their white-whiskered opponent. 

" Who the hell are you ? ” repeated the angry voice. 

“ My name is Caldwell. And your manner is offensive, 
sir. If I have a card . . In standing up, the old gentle¬ 
man contrived to rake the pool to his side and slipped 
the notes, with a careless rustle, into his trouser-pocket. 
As he stepped back towards Max's comer, his voice lost 
its artificial surprise and resentment. " I’m afraid I have 
no cards with me. So sorry. You’ll find me in the tele¬ 
phone-book, though : Arthur Caldwell; Upper Brook 
Street If this finishes the game, I have to thank you for 
your courtesy in letting me take a hand. May I borrow 
that pack a moment ? Thank you ! ” He turned to Max 
and held out the cards in a hand that appeared not to 
move. “ The bottom card is the queen of spades. At 
least . . is it ? It seems to have become the nine of 
diamonds. No ! The four of clubs ! No, the ten of hearts. 
The quickness of the hand, in the old phrase, deceives 
the eye; You are quite sure that is the ten of diamonds ? 
Believe me, sir, you are mistaken: it is the joker! 
Or one of them." He threw down the cards and leant 
against the side of the door. “ You are quite right, sir, 
he told Max, “ about not playing with strangers. It was 
when the second joker appeared that my naturally un¬ 
suspicious mind was disquieted. 

By now the other players were all on their feet, swaying 

easily with the movement of the train. Though t ey 
seemed at first sight to be bunched clumsily, Max detected 
signs of discipline which suggested that they were not 
unfamiliar with brawling in confined spaces. In the time 
needed to restore the cushion to its place, he reviewed t e 



318 saviours of society 

strengtlfof the opposing forces : they were five to one ; 
and, though the old gentleman shewed no sign of fear, 
he would be overpowered almost before he could pull 
the communication-cord. It would be five to one again, 
when the guard came to the door : five injured innocents 
protesting that they had been cheated. 

Max decided that the conflict must be localized. 

" What’s happened ? " he asked, bending forward 
till he was screening one half of Mr. Caldwell’s body. 

Five voices answered him at once : 

“ Bloody crook, that’s what he is ! ” 

Under cover of the tumult Max found time to ask : 

“Are you the Mr. Caldwell, sir, who leased two fillies 
to my father after the December sales last year ? My 
name’s Hendry. Ah ! I thought you must be.” Then he 
held up his hand for silence. “ Tell me what happened . . 
The memory of an affray in Soho, during the war, re¬ 
turned to him ; and he folded his paper, as he talked, 
into halves, quarters and eighths ; then he rolled it into 
a tight baton and gripped it in the middle. “You gentle¬ 
men were playin’ . . . poker, was it ? I see. What was 
it you said about a second joker, sir ? ” he appealed 
to Mr. Caldwell in convincing perplexity. 

“ That was more than I could bear,” said the old 
gentleman. “An insult to one’s intelligence, don't you 
think ? I’m rusty, of course, but that single-handed 
palming I shewed you was not too bad, for an amateur ? 
And I am only an amateur, though they have done me 
the honour to think me a professional, the leader of a 
rival gang. Hence their zeal to know who the hell I was ! 
They know now ; and they can testify that I gave myself 
a full house, fours and a straight flush in three consecutive 
deals. I’m surprised you don’t know your Modern Travel¬ 
ler, Hendry : * He very rarely touched a card, hut when he 
did he cheated . . . Keep your distance, gentlemen, if 
you please 1 You haven't yet heard what I propose to do. 



NICIAS TO CLEON 


3i9 


As I have accepted your hospitality to the extent of some 
brandy and a really first-rate cigar, I shall not carry 
matters farther. My winnings, however, I shall keep, 
at least until I can hand them over to the orphanage 
associated with this railway. As I cannot hope that the 
rest of our journey will be altogether free from embarrass¬ 
ment, I suggest that you transfer yourselves ... Ah, 
would you ? Stand clear, Hendry I ’’ 



An attempted rush from the other end of the carriage 
wavered and stopped as Mr. Caldwell unshipped his race- 
glasses and swung them from the end of their strap. 

“ Two can play at that," murmured one of his antagon¬ 
ists. " Clear out of the way, you, sir! " he shouted 

to Max. . „ . 

“ How can I clear out in a place like this ? Max 


a 


a 


returned. „ 

If you don’t want your head broken . . . 

The first man who touches me goes through that 

window ! " 

" Oo, let him have it! " 

There was a moment’s silence before the first blow was 
struck ; and Max heard Mr. Caldwell’s voice clear and 
frosty behind him, enquiring if he knew his Kipling • 

“ What are the lines ? ‘ For it was Belts, belts, 

belts, an' that’s one for you ! , 

Then a heavv case swung down at the end of a shortened 

strap. Max caught it on his left forearm and sprang[for¬ 
ward to clinch. Gripping his baton m his right.hand 
jabbed upwards; the paper, tightly rolled and hard as 
wood, caught his assailant under the chin Above the 
noise of the train came a sharp click ; and a limp b y 
collapsed insensible against the knees of the secon ran. 

‘‘Any one else want anything ? " Max enquired in¬ 
vitingly. 



320 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“ A useful trick that,” observed Mr. Caldwell. “ I saw 
it once in Valparaiso, but the papers there are on the flimsy 
side. Are you doing anything to-night ? I should so 

much like you to dine with me.” 

“ Afraid I’m dinin’ at the House of Commons, sir, 
of all ungodly places. Any other night ...” 

“ Choose your own ! I'm deeply indebted to you, 
though it was a shame to drag you into my troubles. 
Still, I welcome any chance of meeting a man who can 
keep his head. Tell me about yourself ! Are you a great 
racing-man, like your father ? ” 

“ Only between whiles, sir. Professionally, I'm one 
of the unemployed.” 

“ A victim of the war ? I wonder if I can find you 
a job.” 

" I should be much obliged. . . . Look out! He’s 
coming to, sir ! ” 

“ They aren't going to fight,” said Mr. Caldwell con¬ 
temptuously. 

With the same level tranquillity that he had displayed 
in manipulating the cards and in defying his assailants, 
the old gentleman crooked the handle of his umbrella 
round the communication-cord and strapped his field- 
glasses into place. Max, with greater caution or lesser 
knowledge of a beaten enemy, remained standing, home¬ 
made truncheon in hand, while the single casualty of their 
brief war was lifted on to a seat. 

" Are you goin’ to behave yourselves ? ” he demanded, 
as the others began to whisper among themselves. 

A hot-spring of obscenity gushed forth at the question. 

“ They’ll be all right if you don’t bait them,” said Mr. 
Caldwell. ” ‘ Back to hack, and facing outward ' ... You 
remember Kipling on the Anglo-Saxon who won't lose 
his temper ? . . . I don’t know whether you’ve heard 
of Patterson and Mackenzie : we’re general merchants 
on the west coast of South America, with some pretty 



NICIAS TO CLEON 


321 


big nitrate interests. Lonely life ; a month from England ; 
roughish lot to work with; and every temptation to 
drink yourself to death. If you’re proof against all that... 

“ My God,” Max ejaculated, with shining eyes. 
Though Mr. Caldwell repeated at intervals that Max 
must now tell him all about himself, he continued to talk 
almost without ceasing until the train drew in to the 
terminus and all five conspirators jumped out. 

“ I’m not a vindictive man,” he explained, “ but I ve 
been saving up my revenge ever since I was swindled 
by another lot of these gentry eight-and-forty years ago. 
I was an undergraduate of Jesus at the time ; and I 
couldn’t afford to lose money to any one. Now I’m at 
peace with the world. You’ll dine to-morrow, you say ? 
I’m in earnest about that job. If you don’t mind leaving 

England . . ., 

“ I wouldn’t stay in this home for heroes if you paid 


me, sir.” „ M1 

“ Ah, you shouldn’t say that! You should say you 11 

leave England to please the directors if they will make it 

worth your while. Well, they will. There's a peculiarly 

tough and detestable group of men at our branch in Anca , 

and I have a feeling that you're the man to lick them 

into shape. You should lose no time in learning Spanish 

and, when you get out there, make a rule never to drink 

till sundown. Good-bye.” 

A moment later Max was alone, with a tightly rolled 
morning paper still gripped in his hand. On reactag ^ 
rooms, he tracked his new friend to his niche in Wkos Who 
Patterson and Mackenzie could aff<to 'estabhshitheir 
directors at three addresses and enabled them to run 

racing-stables in their spare time. 

“I’m not a vindictive man either, said Max. 

+V\p same if I got the chance ... 

As he dressed and drove down to the House of Commons 

it was more than pleasant to rehearse imaginary scenes 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


322 

triumph with Auriol and Sheridan. While Sir Mark, 
while Auriol and the rest were politely disparaging, he 
had proved that he could be taken on his merits. In two 
or three years' time—who could say ?—the directors 
of Patterson and Mackenzie might be entertaining their 
manager from Arica to a dinner like this one. Max saw 
himself, bronzed and lean, half Spanish and wholly a 
leader of men, receiving the thanks of the board. Auriol 
would be sorry then. It would be too late, but she would 
be sorry. 

And perhaps, after all, it would not be too late : he 
could not, would not believe that she was going to throw 
herself away on a vulgar, treacherous bully old enough to 
be her father. 

His mood of truculence kept Max company until he 
reached the Houses of Parliament. It was driven out by a 
disabling sense of helplessness and insignificance. The 
velvet night, the powdered sky, the sooty buildings were 
all so vast; the colossal statues of the departed great 
seemed to frown on the pettiness of his triumphs and 
sorrows. The atmosphere, as ever, was charged with 
subdued excitement, as though one more new era in the 
government of man by man was to be born that night. 

Then he forgot everything in numbing confusion, as 
he caught sight of Auriol advancing rapidly towards him 
between her parents 

“ I was hoping for this ! ” she cried. “ Max dear, I’ve 
been trying for days to get hold of you ...” 

” I was stayin’ with my father,” he answered coldly, 
edging from her side to shake hands with Lady Otway. 

Auriol followed him. 

” Oh ? ” She seemed faintly piqued to find that a 
broken heart could be taken racing. “ I telephoned 
the day after I dined with you. I was so miserable to 
think you were unhappy. Max. I said we must part 
friends . .” 



NICIAS TO CLEON 


323 


“ You’re goin’ through with this business ? ” he inter¬ 
rupted, turning to face her for the first time. 

Auriol nodded and then lowered her eyes: 

“ Yes. I can’t look forward to a very happy time for 
the next year. If I felt I always had your friendship . . 

“Afraid my friendship won’t be much use to you. I’m 
goin’ abroad.” 

“ Oh, Max, where ? ” 

“ I mustn’t say at present. ... I shan’t see you 
again, so I’ll say ‘ good-bye and good luck now. . . . 
These people are late.” 

“ No, we’re early. I came on purpose to get you to 
myself for a moment. I might have saved myself the 

trouble.” 

IV 


Max turned with a shrug and shook hands with Lord 
Otway Unless their host intended to announce his widely 
rumoured resignation, he could not understand why 
people who only wished to see Sheridan dead should 

attend a dinner in his honour. 

“Afraid this won’t be a patch on my saviours of 

society' affair,” said Geoffrey Mallock. 

" It follows from it,” said Max. . 

The admirals and generals, the ministers and officials, 
the writers and preachers, the bankers and newspaper- 
proprietors who had tried to ” save society were now 
absent. Ambrose Sheridan, who had been sent to solv e 
a problem that had defeated liberal, coaht.on conserva¬ 
tive and labour governments, was returned fu gy 

and confidence, to harass the administration that had 

tried to set rid of him. ., ~ # 

We couldn't drown Mm, an 

uneaTysnSe." 1 ” Itwas on my suggestion that the prime 
S asked him to undertake tins missron. 


f 4 


a 



324 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“Was it on your suggestion the P.M. offered him a 
place in the cabinet ? ” asked Auriol. 

“ I didn’t know the offer had been made, though I've 
felt and said for a long time that he would strengthen 
the government. Do you feel this tour has done good, 
Geoffrey ? ’’ 

Mallock smiled maliciously. 

“To this country ? Or the empire ? Or to himself ? 
He’s convinced our brothers-beyond-the-seas that he’s 
the one man who understands them. He’s convinced 
people here that he’s the one man with a vision and a 
policy. The general conditions in England are much 
better than when we went away ; and he’ll convince 
people that the improvement is due to him. Undoubtedly 
he’s done good ... to himself. He’s England’s strong 
man. ‘ They tried to get rid of me too' This is the moment 
for his coup. And this is the moment when Max and I, 
who have served him so faithfully ...” 

“ I’m leavin’ him,” Max interrupted. 

“ On the eve of the share-out ? Why ? ” 

“I'm sick of this country.” 

“ It’s still the best country to loot.” 

“ I’m sick of the political gang. . . . Hullo ! They’re 
off! ” 

Led by a queer, anachronistic figure in a blue dress-coat 
with white facings and a broad tie wound twice round 
his collar, they descended to a private dining-room. 
When his turn came. Max shook Lord Orpington’s hand 
with the sympathy of one who had fallen by similar 
methods to the same antagonist. Though it was easy 
to laugh at “Blue Peter”, it was impossible to dislike 
him ; and in a few years the species would be extinct. 
Pink-faced, blue-eyed and bald, Lord Orpington might 
have sat—Max fancied—for a study of Humpty Dumpty 
in old age. Public life would be the poorer when the 
Orpingtons and Otways and Killarneys withdrew at the 



NICIAS TO CLEON 


325 


elbowing of a " political gang " which believed, as 
Geoffrey Mallock declared openly, that England was still 
the best country to loot 

“All the same," Max decided, as he hunted for his place, 
“ knowin' the two of them, I should have said at the start 
there was no chance for Blue Peter if they met at level 
weights." 

In a party with three men for every woman—for the 
most part men of age and position—the secretaries were 
collected together in remote obscurity ; and Max tried 
to keep himself from looking at Auriol by studying the 
conversations that arose in front and on either side of 


him. . 

The Selhurst girls, partnered by distinguished parlia¬ 
mentarians unversed in field-sports, were propounding 
spasmodic questions about plays which neither side had 
seen. Officials exchanged esoteric confidences, whenever 
possible, with other officials, creating oases of silence at 
either side. Tony Rushforth was making the most of his 
opportunities with Evelyn Colthurst. Dazed and half 
deafened, Laura Sheridan was trying to concentrate 
her attention on Lord Orpington’s inexhaustible anecdotes 

Was she, Max wondered, reflecting that for her too this 
would be the last public dinner she would ever attend 
Was she trying, like him, to imagine what all these people 
would say when the thunderbolt fell ? Or was she ry g 
to make up her mind what to do next ? During Ins brief 
holiday at Newmarket, she had not been allowed to leav 
her rack : Tony and Lord Otway on one side Shendan 
and Auriol on the other had been importuning her alt 
nately until she answered them finally, in a 
which expressed more pride than she felt Jt at s e wo 
keep no man tied to her against his will but that sne 
compelled no one to marry or remarry by setting her 
husband free. “And now," she had continued, after wntmg 
to tell Max of her decision, “ I must get used to things. 



326 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

Robbed of her home, her husband, her prestige as hi6 
wife, what in the world could she do with herself ? 

This was the last dinner of its kind that Lady Orpington 
or the Selhurst girls would be constrained to attend ; 
but, though they might not like the manner of their 
going, Max felt that they should be grateful to Sheridan 
for compelling them to go. They had no bent for the life 
of eternal competition and struggle at which the “ poli¬ 
tical gang ” excelled. “ Blue Peter ” was no match for 
a man who combined in his own person the flexibility 
and resource of the politician, the journalist and the busi¬ 
ness-man, with the cunning of a lawyer and the enthu¬ 
siasm of a priest. 

As the dinner drew to a close, Max fancied that he could 
detect a note of expectancy, perhaps of uneasiness, in 
the conversations around him. The members of the 
mission, presumably, were wondering whether they 
would be mentioned by name ; the Otways, the Sheridans, 
he himself were waiting to hear if Orpington would say 
anything about resigning. Lord Orpington, audibly 
exhorting the waiters to “get a move onclearly wanted 
to say what he had to say and get it over. The con¬ 
versations, like a line of sailing-ships on the far edge 
of a breeze, became suddenly becalmed. Without waiting 
for the plates to be removed, Lord Orpington sent the 
wine round and stood up : 

“ Ladies and gentlemen, the king ! " 

A sigh of relief ran round the tables. 

“ The king ! ” 

“ The king ! ’’ 

" The king, God bless him ! " 

The toast was followed by a long silence faintly punc¬ 
tuated by the scrape of matches. Then Lord Orpington 
stood up to propose the health of his principal guest. 
From ill-defined sympathy, Max applauded the speaker; 
from loyalty to an undefined code of his own, he patted 



NICIAS TO CLEON 


32 7 


the table at every tribute to Sheridan’s qualities and 
achievements ; for the rest, until Auriol’s face hurt him 
with its radiance, he watched for a change of expression 


among the other members of the audience. “You have 
all no doubt read the summary of Mr. Sheridan’s report 
which was published in the press last week. I shall 
therefore not delay the proceedings by discussing it.” 
Max was in time to see a shadow passing over Laura's 
wan face : though her husband was dead to her, she 
could still finger his medals. “ I was privileged to wish 
Mr. Sheridan god-speed. It is a greater privilege to bid 
him welcome back, though he and I, thanks to the vigi¬ 


lance of his press, have not lost touch with each other 
for a day.” The faces of the Selhurst girls, Max noted, 
were growing rigid ; Sheridan was smiling ; Lord Otway 
was staring at his plate. “ I suppose I shall be pictur¬ 
esque ' so long as admirals are ‘ breezy Max heard a 
ripple of laughter, set in motion by relief that Orpington 
was taking the attacks on himself in good part. Was 
that not the only course for a gentleman when he met 
with foul fighting : to bow and retire, with a < mile Jrom 
the ring ? Max thanked heaven that with A’ riol, when 
she tried to explain, with Laura, when she wanted to 
sympathize, and with Sheridan, when he tendered a cash 
compensation, he had preserved his dignity and his tem¬ 
per. At this time to-morrow night he would be exploring 

the mysteries of nitrate with Mr. Caldwell. . . • 

“ I feel the more fortunate to be entertaining Mr. 

Sheridan to-night,” continued Lord Orpington “ in that 
this is probably the last time I shall have the honour of 
appearing as one of his majesty s ministers. n e 
pause that followed, every lank body stiffened. am 
not as young as I was nor as leisured as I should like 
to be. In a fairly long political career I have ma^y times 
heard that this man or that is intriguing for office 0 r ch g 
ing to it. For myself, I can only say that, if you offered 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


328 

me the choice between twelve months as one of his 
majesty’s secretaries of state and twelve months as one of 
his majesty’s guests in one of his majesty's prisons, I should 
not hesitate to elect prison, with or without hard labour. 
This, however, is a digression. It is my pleasure and privi¬ 
lege to-night, since Mr. Sheridan and I have not always 
agreed on the ethics of popular journalism, to range 
myself with a press which is almost unanimous in demand¬ 
ing how long the government will be content to accept 
Mr. Sheridan’s services without admitting him to its 
counsels. His career has been such that it is too late to 
wish him success ; but I ask you to rise and drink to his 
even greater success in supporting the onerous responsi¬ 
bilities and maintaining the high traditions of our public 
life. Mr. Sheridan ! ” 

Amid a scrape of chairs and scuffle of feet, a cry of 
“Mr. Sheridan’’, “Mr. Sheridan’’, “ Mr. Sheridan" ran 
round the table. 

“Among the things that might have been expressed 
differently," Geoffrey Mallock whispered to Max, “ I 
include the toast of ‘ greater success in maintaining the 
high traditions of our public life 

V 

As he waited for Sheridan to return thanks, Max studied 
the faces about him, this time to discover how many 
of his neighbours had been let into the secret of Lord 
Orpington’s impending resignation. Doyle knew, but 
not Mallock ; Lord Otway, but not Auriol; the Selhursts, 
naturally, but not Sheridan himself who no less naturally 
would have been expected to know. 

The announcement seemed to have upset his speech; 
and Max saw him writing rapidly on the back of his 
menu until Lord Orpington leaned over to ask if he was 
ready. The abrupt silence that greeted his opening words 
seemed to disconcert him; and, as he recapitulated the 



NICIAS TO CLEON 329 

task that had been entrusted to him, he seemed to be 
gaining himself time to think of a new peroration. The 
audience listened patiently in the hope of hearing an 
announcement of interest equal to Lord Orpington’s hint 
of resignation. Instead, Sheridan stated his ideal of 
Empire ; and, though Auriol sat forward with her chin in 
her hands, drinking in his words, the rest were vaguely 
disappointed. Most of them had expected something 
different ; many had heard this same speech before ; and 
usually it had been delivered with more passionate con¬ 
viction and in more compelling language. 

“An anticlimax, this,” Geoffrey whispered. “And I 
wrote him such a moving little oration, too.” 

Max silenced him with a gesture and listened curiously. 
Sheridan was hesitating for words and referring more and 
more often to the notes on his menu until the attention 
of the audience began to wander. Then, abruptly, he 
straightened himself and smiled ; his tone—like Lord 
Orpington’s—became conversational and jocular, as 
though both men were playing a game of make-believe 
and, recollecting that they were still accounted friends, 
were buttoning their foils and crossing swords with an 
air of careless jesting. 

“ I have thanked you,” Sheridan continued, “ on behalf 
of my colleagues and myself. It remains for me to express 
a hope—on behalf of myself and of them and of the public 
at large—that we are not to take seriously your lordship s 
threat of resignation. Failing health alone would justify 
such a course ; and I doubt whether failing health, of 
which happily we see no signs, would avail against the 
demand—the unanimous and not the ‘ almost unanimous 
demand of the press, the unanimous demand of the people 
and not merely of the press or of the 4 ignorant masses , 
the demand of the people throughout this empire and not 
only in these islands—that men of your lordship's experi¬ 
ence, in your lordship’s position, shall continue to support 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


330 

the responsibilities which your predecessors never shrank 
from shouldering and shall continue to maintain the 
traditions of public life which they first shaped." 

The applause that followed only died down when it 
was observed that the speaker had not finished. 

" Your lordship has stated that we have not always 
seen eye to eye on the ethics of popular journalism. It 
would be insincere for me to pretend I did not know 
that you have been criticized in papers for which I accept 
absolute responsibility. Criticism," Sheridan concluded, 
with his eyes turned to a corner of the ceiling, “ is the 
price that every man pays for the privilege of serving 
his country. Crucifixion, literal or metaphorical, is the 
price required of every one who tries to serve humanity 
I have perhaps been attacked rather more than most 
men, in a greater number of countries, by a wider variety 
of critics. This should have hardened my heart or 
toughened my skin, but it has done neither. Caricatures 
of your lordship as a blend of Beau Brummel and Fred 
Archer can hardly be more galling than caricatures of 
me as a blend of the Great Napoleon and Jack the Ripper. 
You cannot be more weary of hearing about your pic¬ 
turesque personality than I of being told that I have 
‘ the Napoleon touch’, especially as that touch seems to 
be compounded of Napoleon’s less agreeable character¬ 
istics. If I humbly share his love for efficiency, I hope 
the ladies and gentlemen here to-night who have been my 
colleagues for the last six months will not maintain that 
I have shewn any of Napoleon’s ruthlessness, unscrupu¬ 
lousness or heartlessness. Criticism is never pleasant to 
receive ; and it is seldom pleasant to administer when one 
has outgrown the universal delight of the human boy 
with his first pot of ink. It will be no consolation for you 
to know that my motives have been as much travestied 
as your own : you are charged, I gather, with clinging to 
office, I am supposed to be undermining your position 



NICIAS TO CLEON 


33i 

with a view to occupying it myself. This supposition 
ignores three important factors : I hope, as I have said, 
that you do not seriously contemplate resignation ; I 
doubt greatly whether, in the event of your resigning, 
the prime minister would invite me to take your place ; 
and I know—conjectures and aspirations end here—I 
know that I could not entertain such an offer at the present 
time. Any success that I have had in private business or 
public affairs must be ascribed to concentration. My 
mission, which this dinner sees resolved into its elements, 
went out with an agenda and has come back with a policy. 
Until that policy has been adopted by the present or by 
some future government, from pressure within or without, 
as the business of a minister or the dream of a private 
member, I am not interested in the shuffling of individual 
offices nor in the fate of individual administrations." 

This time there was no opportunity for discussion of 
the speech. After a brief interval of applause, Lord 
Orpington walked round the table and suggested to 
Sheridan that the party should make signs of breaking up. 

“ No need for us to go yet," he added, “ but some of 
these people live out of London. Well, that was a capital 
speech. First-rate." 

"I wish you hadn’t even mentioned resignation,” 
said Sheridan. “ If I’m as young as you are when I’m 
your age ..." 

" That was for the public. I refuse to be shot at, day 
in, day out, for doing my poor best in a job I ve always 
hated. You can give me no undertaking that the attac r s 
will stop. I bow to my critics. You can tell that to your 

editors, with my compliments." 

Sheridan frowned at the unexpected directness of this 

attack. He began to say that other papers had been more 
outspoken than his own ; but Lord Orpington, ree o 
responsibilities by his late declaration, refuse o e se 
ous. 



332 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


“ You’re teaching the press,” Sheridan substituted, 
“ that it can criticize a man out of office.” 

“I’m not trying to teach anybody anything. I'm not 
competent to. I regard my general ability as very 
moderate. By the way, you wrote to me about Tony 
Rushforth. If I were staying on, I’d try to find him a 
place in the secretariat, but it wouldn't be fair to tie 
my successor’s hands with an eleventh-hour job.” 

“ I’m obliged to you for even thinking of it. I didn’t 
want him to go ; and, if he cares to come back, I daresay 
I can make a billet for him. Excuse me a moment ! ” 
Sheridan crossed the room to Rushforth’s side. “ I 
promised Miss Colthurst that I’d find some one to take 
her home. I must get back to work. Would you mind 
undertaking it ? Her house is in Surrey, but she’s staying 
the night in some hotel hereabouts.” 

“ Is that the girl I was sitting next to ? ” asked Tony. 
“All right. I shall want to have a talk with you, Ambrose, 
later. I don't know whether what Orpington said to-night 
is going to alter things . . .” 

“ It isn’t,” Sheridan answered, turning on his heel. 



EPILOGUE 


"... Where one ceases to soliloquize, 

Somehow the motives, that did well enough 
I’ the darkness, when you bring them into light 
Are found, like those famed cave-fish, to lack eye 
And organ for the upper magnitudes." 

Robert Browning: Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, 

Saviour of Society. 


I 


I N Fleet Street that night, it was agreed that Ambrose 
Sheridan might have been trusted to make history' 

even out of a royal commission, 

Mr. Sheridan’s editors were holding their papers open 
till the last possible moment on the chance of receiving 
a message; but, as one man after another came up to 
say good-bye, Sheridan instructed Max to warn is 
people that he was going home as soon as he could get 


away. 

“ If my car’s there,” he added as a hint. 

After a slow start, the dining-room emptied rapidly 
Walking through the Speaker’s Court, Max heard a sound 
of subdued altercation between the Otways, en in S'' en 
Auriol whispered some request to the Sheridans an ien 


jot into their car. • . , . , raA 

“A friendly little conference ? They might have as 

ne to join them ! ” he muttered bitterly. , 

A taxi drove up, but Max surrendered it to R 
md Miss Colthurst. What was Auriol saying o ,’ 

le to her ? There was a clear challenge, c ear yJjc 
tficias had addressed himself to Cleon , an 


333 



334 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

answered Nicias. What next ? When Orpington resigned, 
Sheridan would be offered his place or another : would 
he take it ? He had said he would not, but he might be 
bluffing : anything to postpone the invitation and to keep 
old " Blue Peter ” in office till the divorce had been for¬ 
gotten. And “ Blue Peter " refused to be bluffed : he 
did not care who succeeded him, he was not interested 
in the demands and complications of Sheridan’s private 
life. He had considered everything and argued everything ; 
he had now only to publish his resignation and to surrender 
his seals 

“ Sheridan must choose between the cabinet and her," 
Max whispered. 

Hardly knowing that he had left the Houses of Parlia¬ 
ment, he found himself walking towards Cleveland Row. 
If Auriol came to him at all, she would come now because 
she had failed to get what she wanted and he was the next 
best thing. For a long time, indeed, perhaps all her life, 
she would think of this act of fate which had intervened 
at the last moment ; she would always be wondering 
what her life would have been if she had married Sheridan. 

“ That doesn’t matter ! " Max cried. 

Nothing mattered so long as he could get her for his own. 

With a sudden feeling of helplessness, he recalled her 
expression as she watched Sheridan speaking. It was the 
adoration of the child for the hero ; her eyes were full 
of tears ; and she gripped the table for support. So long 
as he fascinated her, she did not ask herself whether she 
was in love with him, he was too much the god for her to 
think of him as a man. 

Max paused at the top of the Duke of York’s steps and 
then turned sharply to the left. A car was drawn up 
outside Sheridan’s door ; and he thought wildly of waiting 
till she came out and of making a last appeal. Then he 
retraced his steps and strode up St. James’ Street. 
Auriol would do what Sheridan told her to do ; and he 



EPILOGUE 


335 

would rap out his orders to her, as he now rapped them out 
to his wife, the moment he had decided how to squeeze 
the last ounce for himself out of this, as out of every, 
position. 

" He’ll take office," Max told himself. "After all, 
the case can't come on for some months ; and he’ll hope 
to dig himself in by then. He can’t marry again for twelve 
months ; and perhaps he’ll persuade Auriol that, if they 
can wait twelve months, they can wait twenty-four. 
But, good God, if she can wait two years, she can't be 
much in love with him ! Why should she marry him at 
all ? Hold on to that twelve months ! " 

In twelve months she must surely come to her senses. 
Before the year was out, she would say frankly that she 
had been mistaken. 

On his table Max found a reminder from Mr. Caldwell, 
lying beside the open Who’s Who. For two hours he had 
almost forgotten their meeting, though he had intended 
to tell Geoffrey Mallock of the fight in the train. The 
sight of the card brought to an end his dream of an 
eleventh-hour miracle. 

" I’m not going to hang about here for two years,’’ 
he decided, " to be told at the end that there’s no change 
anywhere. The moment I can start and the farther I 
can go ... If she wants me, she can always find me.’’ 
He poured himself out a generous measure of whiskey 
and promptly returned it to the decanter. " I’ve drunk 
quite enough already," he informed himself. " I shall 
start trainin’ now. There’s nothin’ to train for, but 111 
make Caldwell sit up. If this had come a year ago . . . 

‘ You’ve disappointed me sadly, Max he quoted in 
cruel mimicry of Auriol. " I daresay I have, my dear, 
but I swear I’ve played the game better than you and that 
swine Sheridan. If I ever meet him in a rough house, 
he won’t get off with a broken jaw. As your mamma says, 
life’s a great muddle. Life’s a bloody, bloody, bloody 



336 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

mess ! " he shouted, hurling the telephone across the 
room. 

Then he put on his coat again and returned to Cleveland 
Row. The car was still standing there. A light was 
burning in the hall; and from time to time a shadow was 
thrown on the glass panels of the door. He fancied that 
he could hear voices. Then he became conscious that the 
chauffeur was eyeing him askance. He turned away 
and sat down on a step out of sight. 

II 

Inside the house, Auriol was engaged in a triangular 
duel, in which she fought with Sheridan while he fought 
with his wife. 

“ I oughtn’t to be here ! You must try to forgive me, 
Mrs. Sheridan. We must clear this up, though, all three 
of us. What did Lord Orpington mean ? And what 
did you mean, Ambrose ? " 

“ I meant what I said," Sheridan answered. “ I always 
do. I can’t undertake to explain what other people mean, 
unless they mean what they say." 

The brusque reply, Sheridan observed with satisfaction, 
made Auriol wince, teaching her perhaps that she took 
a risk in confronting him with a question which he was 
not ready to answer ; confronting him with it in his own 
house, under the eyes of his wife. 

“ But what are you going to do ? ” the girl persisted ; 
and he discovered, as he was always discovering now, 
that the freaks of her breeding and training had given 
her a spirit of independence that could not be ignored 
in matters which affected them both. If Laura had asserted 
a right to be present when he was considering what was 
best for her, he would have known at once what to do. 
" We shan’t do any good by burying our heads in the 
sand." 

'* There’s no reason why we should all stand," said 



EPILOGUE 337 

Laura, wearily loosening her heavy cloak “ Won’t 
you go in ? ” 

As Auriol hesitated between two closed doors, she 
hurried forward and turned on the lights in the library. 
Sheridan fidgeted with the letters on the hall-table in an 
attempt to master his exasperation. More vividly than 
the bitterest reproach could express, Laura was revealing 
her emotions in utter unconcern whether they embar¬ 
rassed him or not: she was forgetting, that quick 
motion said, that the girl had never been to the house 
before; she was realizing, a moment later, when Auriol 
accepted a glass of lemonade, that her long struggle was 
hopeless. Why would she not put it into words ? “ Night 
after night, when I’m safely out of the way, you two will 
drive hack from dinner, discussing your party. While he 
lights his last cigar, you’ll mix him a drink. Perhaps, when 
she’s very tired, you’ll bend smilingly over her chair and 
gather her into your arms ..." Why did she not taunt 
him with having shewn the same tenderness to her in the 
far-off days when a dinner-party was an event and then- 
first car an adventure ? 

" I confess I don’t know what we’re supposed to be 
discussing," said Sheridan. 

The measured calm of his voice shewed Laura that he 
was furious ; and he could see her resolving that, if it 
were her last service, she must control his fury for him 
and put into words what this girl, with all her appearance 
of courage, was afraid to express. 

“ Lord Orpington seemed to hint that he was resigning 
immediately," she prompted, " and that you . . 

“ Thank you, I heard his speech," Sheridan answered 

coldly. 

" I think," Laura continued desperately, "Auriol 
wants to be quite sure that you really mean to throw 
away ..." 

“ Is that it ? ” Sheridan interrupted. He was tempted 



338 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

to say : “ She’s quite capable of speaking for herself " ; 
but he did not want to unite these women against him. 
Auriol was plainly gratified when Laura used her Christian 
name. “ Is that it, Auriol ? ” 

“ Yes." Auriol rose from her place on the arm of a 
chair and stood erect. “ If you mean that, I shan’t let 
you." 

“ What will you do ? " 

" I don’t know. I shall go away, I suppose : end things 
somehow." 

" I’m glad—for your sake—it’s all so simple." 

The girl had winced before ; now she writhed, helpless 
in the face of his massive calm and devastating fluency : 

"Ah, don’t be cruel ! I’ve suffered enough already 
without being taunted . . . Simple! You call it 
simple . . ." 

" If we’re going to discuss this at all," Sheridan inter¬ 
rupted, " we must discuss it quietly. I’ve been told, 
till I’m sick of hearing it, that I can’t take office one day 
and appear in the divorce-court the next. The prime 
minister must have heard there was something in the 
wind : he went out of his way on Monday to say what a 
pity it was young Doyle had dished himself. I didn’t pay 
much attention, because I wasn’t expecting to be offered 
anything. Till Orpington went back on all he'd promised, 
I thought I’d smoothed him down. To-night, when he 
spoke, I had to make up my mind immediately. I decided 
that, if I were offered a place in the government, I must 
refuse it for the present. I told Orpington so, without 
troubling to give him my reasons. I didn’t trouble to 
congratulate him—or your father, Auriol!—on their 
pretty little plot. I thought we’d see who would laugh 
last. However . . . It’s not the first time we’ve discussed 
this. You agreed . . ." 

" There was no talk then of your being offered the C.O." 

" We all knew I should be invited to come in the moment 



EPILOGUE 


339 


they felt they couldn’t keep me out any longer. If it’s a 
question of waiting . . 

He looked at his watch and picked up Auriol’s cloak. 

“ But it’s more than that! ” Laura interposed. “ This 
chance may never come again. You’re giving your enemies 
a weapon that they’ll use against you whenever you try 
to raise your head. It’s your career . . .” 

“ I’ve made my choice.” 

Even to his own hearing, the words and tone were 
melodramatic, but in no other form could he convey to 
Auriol that he set her higher than any ambition. She 
refused to be flattered ; and, with the two of them waiting 
to pick holes in his logic, he could not whisper to one that 
he would throw away his career to marry her, boasting 
to the other that he could marry and divorce at will 


without jeopardizing his career. 

“ You talk as if you were a nobody! ” Auriol ex¬ 
claimed. “As if a week more or less ... It s not just 
one office or another: it’s all the work you ve done, all 
the work you’re going to do. We have a right to that. 
I’m not going to let you throw everything away. If you’re 

offered a seat in the cabinet ..." „ 

“ I honestly had no idea you were so much dazzled .. . 


Sheridan sighed. . 

He was still grasping her cloak ; and Aunol took it 

from him as her only means of escaping with dignity. 

“ You must be careful,” she warned him. “ We don t 

want to say things we shall regret. You know I on t 

mind being attacked, but, if people called me your evil 

genius and I knew it was true, if our love turned you aside 

by one hair's-breadth from what you would have done 

if we’d never met ..." „ 

“ It’s my work you’re thinking of, not me. 

“ You’re one ! It’s your life \” 

The'unexpectedf quiet voice robbed Sheridan of speech 



340 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

What he had feared was happening : these women were 
uniting against him. 

“ Unless you promise me, it will be good-bye,” Auriol 
warned him. If I were responsible for destroying your 
work . . 

“You would be. On the day you said good-bye to me, 
I should say good-bye to the House of Commons, public 
life, England . . 

“ That’s not true ! ” 

A voice, wearily authoritative with knowledge, inter¬ 
vened once more : 

" I’m afraid it is, Auriol. I know him.” 

Sheridan accepted the second interruption as indiffer¬ 
ently as the first. If Auriol had not contrived this fan¬ 
tastic triangle, he would have swept her off her feet : 
literally and figuratively, crushing her in his arms and 
firing her cool blood with something of his own passion. 
He could not touch her, he could not move her by ardour 
of language while the three of them stood there, dis¬ 
secting his emotions and character. 

“That . . . that would be simply wicked,” said Auriol. 

“ Don’t let’s say anything we may regret,” he mocked. 

“ It would be . . . childish,” she added disdainfully. 

Sheridan shrugged his shoulders tolerantly : 

“ 1 wonder if you’ll say that in a few years' time,” he 
mused. “ I wonder if you won’t rather say that you’re 
speaking now like a child who doesn’t know the things 
that move men in this world. We . . . Good God, I 
put it to the test when all this trouble began. I couldn’t 
think ! I couldn’t sleep ! I went away for six months 
and never exchanged a word with you ! ” His voice, 
after its ^ brief vehemence, became artificially tranquil 
again. Then, suddenly, I found I could work again. 

I felt you were by my side. This ridiculous test had 
broken down. Childish ... It means nothing to you 
that people commit crimes or set the world on fire for 



EPILOGUE 


34i 

a man or woman ... I say it will be good-bye to every¬ 
thing, because I need you, because I can’t work without 
you. I knew that to-night when I answered Orpington." 

Ill 

Deep silence crept through the library; and Sheridan 
watched like a winning chess-player as Auriol fidgeted 
with her pieces in futile efforts to escape. It was absurd 
for her to say she would not take the responsibility of this 
or that! If he refused office, he would refuse it on account 
of her. If she disappeared from his life, he would still 
abandon his work because of her. If he accepted office, 
if he went on with his work, it would be at her bidding; 
and through her, later, he would resign his office and 
forsake his work simultaneously, if indeed old Standish 
succeeded in getting his way. She was responsible for 
whatever happened to the three of them, though the ex¬ 
perience and wisdom of twice her age were graven into 
his own buffeted features and into the careworn face of 
the woman beside her. 

As though hardly conscious that she was moving, 
Auriol crouched by Laura’s chair and began nervously 
to twist rings that hung loose on shrunken fingers. 

“ Do tell me what I ought to do ! ” she whispered. 

“ I cant ! ” Laura’s hand rested for a moment on the 
rippling waves of chestnut hair by her side. I m so 

tired I can’t think properly." 

A second silence followed, to be broken this time by 

Sheridan: 

“ You must excuse me, Auriol: I have work to finish. 
The car's waiting when you want it. . . . So far as I m 
concerned, everything stands where it stood three hours 

g " You’ll refuse ? ” asked Laura. “ You’ll let yo^elf 
be trapped by people you despise ? Mr. Standish, Lord 

Orpington, Sir John Ferrers, Mr. Rodney 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


342 

“ If I accept—God in heaven, I’ve not been offered 
anything yet !—I’m playing your father’s game, Auriol. 
Won’t he be pleased ? The first to congratulate me ! ” 

Auriol winced again, this time at the vulgarity of his 
tone. 

“ Suppose we leave daddy out of it ? ” she suggested. 
“ This is between you and me. If you think you’re big 
enough to get back where Parnell and Dilke failed ..." 

“ Thirty years ago ! D’you think I shall fail ? ’’ Auriol 
shivered and looked away. “ Very well, then ! I’ve 
committed myself pretty deeply to-night, but no doubt 
I can find a formula. I shan't be playing Standish’s game," 
he assured his wife ; ” nor your father’s,” he promised 
Auriol. “ Whatever I’m offered I’ll take ! Orpington’s 
challenged me. I take up his challenge * What if Cleon 
should deliver the goods ? ' If I’m put in his place, Orping¬ 
ton will have a chance of seeing what I should do in 
his place. And, once there, I stay there till I’m dis¬ 
missed ! " 

As the door closed with a slam, the two women looked 
at each other. 

" He’s like that when he thinks any one is defying him," 
Laura sighed. “ I suppose, if you died, he’d come back 
to his work ... in time ; some one else would ‘ inspire ’ 
him. My dear, my dear, that's the most dreadful thing 
of all ! " she added in a whisper. “ This won’t last ! . . . 
And he’s the only thing in life I care for. . . . You’re 
going ? " 

“ There’s nothing more to say, is there ? ” asked Auriol. 

‘ I shall feel I’ve ruined him whatever I do. Why won’t 
he let things slide for a bit ? ” 

" Because it’s against his nature. If he hadn’t always 
wanted things so badly, he would never have forced his 
way to where he is." 

As Auriol got into the car, Sheridan watched her 
from the window of his work-room. As the car turned 


EPILOGUE 


343 

towards Pall Mall, he saw a young man in opera-hat 
and coat breaking into a sudden run and then suddenly 
stopping. Downstairs he heard the chain of the front-door 
being hooked into place. 

Though he pretended that he had to work, he only 
wanted to think. A formula to explain away his hasty 
refusal of preferment that had not been offered him . . . 
A calm, critical review of that evening’s engagements: 
Orpington, Laura, young Hendry, Auriol, Tony . . . 
Hendry could be dismissed from mind if in fact he was 
behaving like the hero of a romance and carrying his 
broken heart to the other side of the world. Tony could 
be dismissed, too : there had been some talk of his wanting 
to argue things out again, but, if appearances were to be 
believed, Tony’s spare time would now be amply occupied 
by Evelyn. They must be nearing her hotel now, if they 
had not reached it; their taxi was on the right road 
and only required a gentle push from behind. Auriol ? 
Laura ? Orpington ? 

“ Orpington will find his bluff has been called, 
Sheridan told himself. 

On his way upstairs to bed, he found his wife s door 
standing open. Seeing a shadow moving fantastically 
up and down the walls, he went in to apologize for 

Auriol’s forced entry. „ 

“ She’s young enough to be a little thoughtless still, 

said Laura without rancour. “ It did hurt rather , but 
think the modern intellectual young woman feels bound 
in honour to be very direct. I notice the young critics 
always make fun of you if you write that some dear one 
has * passed away ’—a beautiful phrase, I always t in • 
they like to say boldly that people ‘die’. Auriol has a 1 
to learn, Ambrose, and she’ll be rather an o s in 

^Sheridan’s eyes fell; and he played with the brushes 
on the dressing-table. 



344 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

“ I can’t discuss her with you or you with her,” he 
blustered. “ The position is painful enough already . . 

“I was trying to help you,” she broke in gently. 
“Ambrose, you once thought highly of my judgement. 
May I warn you of two things ? ” 

“ What are they ? ” 

Before answering Laura shut the door and pushed an 
armchair into the circle of light by her dressing-table. 
Sitting down, she motioned to him so that he turned and 
left his own face in shadow, while the lamp over his head 
revealed every change of expression on the face opposite 
him. It was in this way, as both knew, that he liked to 
stage an interview when he doubted the good faith of his 
antagonist. 

You’ve promised to take anything that’s offered you,” 
she began, “ so we needn’t discuss that; but there must 
be no scandal . . 

“ If you’ll shew me how it can be avoided . . 

There was a gentle sigh, followed by a long pause. The 
arm-chair moved slightly so that half the sitter's face fell 
into darkness; the other half was shaded by a hand. 

“You can divorce me,” she volunteered. 

Sheridan started; and a hat-whisk clattered to the 
floor. 

Absurd ! he muttered. You, of all women on 
earth ...” 

“ I know I’ve given you no technical grounds. You must 

pay some one to lend his name ; and I shan’t defend the 

suit. After all, it s what a great many men have done, 

quite innocent men, when their wives wanted a divorce.’’ 

Instinctive enmity, for twenty years repressed, bubbled 

to the surface. “ I'm sure Mr. Livingstone will be able to 
arrange things.” 

The hat-whisk was retrieved ; and Sheridan stood up 
with a gesture of dismissal, forgetting characteristically 
that he was trying to dismiss her from her own room. 



EPILOGUE 


345 


" And who d'you think would believe it ? ” 

“ The fewer the better, so long as the judge is one of 
them. It will be a surprise, but when I don’t defend the 
suit ..." 

“ And what would you think of me ? " 

“ For doing this ? It's the only possible way, I shall be 
glad you’ve been sensible enough to take it." 

" Sensible ? My God, Laura, you must despise me pretty 
well to suggest a thing like that.” 

If she had not feared to lose her small remaining self- 
control, Laura would have betrayed her impatience at 
his obtuseness or insincerity. Those who talked most of 
"facing facts", those who described themselves most 
persistently as " realists" were the most incorrigibly 
sentimental when facts had to be faced. If she had to 
lose him, did it matter how she lost him ? 

" Despise ? . . . No! I . . . just love you." 



Looking up, she found him taking stock of her and felt 
suddenly ashamed. 

Yes, she was t two years older than he was; and she 
looked it. Yes, her face was lined and her neck thin. 
Though her hair retained its colour, it was dead by con¬ 
trast with Auriol’s chestnut glow. Her eyes were always 
tired, her hands always cold. She was no longer a woman 

to inspire passion. 

" Love . . ." he muttered. 

Laura bowed her head slowly. If they had ever a 
children, he might have learned that love transcended 
the physical lure of one sex for another. When e a 
outgrown his animal pains and hungers, he wo now a 


that she knew now. „ , . AnA 

" And whether I dishonour myself ? he demanded 

Had she cared to punish him, here was a rare c 

ask whether he minded dishonouring himse or was 



346 SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

afraid of being caught in dishonour ! There was nothing 
dishonourable, apparently, in seducing poor, empty- 
headed little clerks and shop-girls, in bringing them to his 
wife’s house or in pensioning them off, with their families. 
There was nothing dishonourable in living with one 
woman when he was married to another and pledged to 
a third. Men, he was fond of saying, were different from 
women ; one man was not the same as another. It was 
best to leave it at that. 

“ If there’s any dishonouring, that’s been done already,” 
she answered. “ I don’t know. When I was Auriol’s age, 
I should have said that husbands and wives were dis¬ 
honoured once and for all when they broke their vows. 
Now that I’ve seen the difficulties of marriage, I’m not 
sure that these vows don’t force people to be dishonour¬ 
able. ... My dear, if I divorced you so that you could 
marry Auriol, you would have to find a co-respondent. . . . 
This is all so unimportant. If I have to lose you . . . and 
when this really is the only way . . It's the last thing 
I can do for you.” 

“ I can’t accept it.” 

“ It’s the last thing I shall ever ask you to do for me. 
Will you refuse me that ? Can you ? Dare you, Ambrose ? 
I wont let you ruin yourself ! You had all my love ; and 
I’ve given myself, my life, my happiness—yes, I’ve never 
said it to you before, but I’ll say it now !—I gave up my 
hope of children to bring you where you are. God knows, 
God knows I don’t grudge it! I’d give it all again and more 
if I had it to give, but I won’t let you throw it away 
for a scruple you don’t feel. And you don’t! You’re 
afraid of what people would say if they knew. 
Well, they won’t know. If you were afraid of being 
dishonourable, you wouldn’t throw me aside for Auriol 
Otway. Why, I’m giving you this of my own free will! 
For my own sake as much as yours ! All that I was, all 
that I had went to make you what you are. I won’t 


EPILOGUE 


347 


let you break what I helped to build. What else have you 
left me ? When you’ve gone away . . .' 

“ Laura! ” 

Coming at her like the roar of a gun, his voice stemmed 
the rush of her words and broke down her desperate 
valour. 

“ I'm sorry,” she answered meekly. 

“ You're becoming hysterical. It's time you went to 


bed.” 

“ I can’t go till you say what you’re going to do.” A 
last, unexpected shot came to hand ; and she fired it 
before he could stalk out of the room. “You must do 
this in my way, Ambrose,” she told him. If you don t 
. . . If you don’t, I shan’t help you. I know I promised 
not to stand in your way, but I shall break my promise. 
I shall keep you tied to me. You must say what you re 


going to do! ” , 

“ I'm going to bed. You should know me well enough 

by now, Laura, to know that I never allow myself to be 

stampeded. It was a mistake to start this discussion. 

Whether you divorce me or I divorce you . . . 

The sentence was left unfinished, as Laura covered h 
face and burst into tears. When he adm.tted the possi¬ 
bility of divorcing her, she knew that she had w 
“ I'm sorry,” she apologized again. 

“ You're worn out. You’d much better ry o g 


Sl Laura shook her head. Whatever his next step, he was 

unlikely to waste time over it; and, w e t - me 

house in a day or a month, this was pro a y ue j y 

that they would be alone in her room' • „ own 

intimate and fantastically remote, s e in touching 

and he in a wadded smoking-jacket; 

distance of one another ; discussing discusse d before 

means of getting a divorce, as 

now the most convenient way o g S 



SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 


348 

He was still fidgeting with the hat-whisk ; and, as she 
looked up, his eyes were wandering from her brushes to 
the dressing-table, from that to the rest of the furniture, 
from the furniture to the curtains and the silk-brocaded 
panelling. Was he wondering how Auriol would like the 
room ? 

“ You’d be wiser to go to bed,” he told her, " but if 
you want to talk . . . We shall have to decide about 
this house. It’s yours, if you wish to live here . . .” 

“ I’ve not thought what I’m going to do,” she answered. 

“ Think it over at your leisure.” 

He stood up to go and seemed suddenly to lose control 
of himself. Angry phrases and broken sentences tripped 
over one another. It was ridiculous, monstrous ! No one 
would believe such a story ! She must be mad to suggest 
it ! Would she kindly use her imagination and fancy the 
kind of discussion that would spring up when it was 
rumoured that he was divorcing her ? Take the Otways, 
who knew all that was to be known. Take Tony. Take 
any one. . . . 

“ People believe what they want to believe,” she 

answered wearily. “ It’ll be much pleasanter for every 

one if you have nothing to live down. You matter ; and 

I don t. If you can go into court with clean hands, so 

much the better for the Otways and every one. I can’t 

argue about it, Ambrose. Those are my terms. You must 

make up what story you like. You can let people think 

that I was to blame all through and you were shielding 

me. It s so little ! . . . And I shan’t hear what people 
say.” . . . 

“ What do you propose to do ? ” 

Go abroad, I suppose. I really can’t say, Ambrose : 
I haven’t had time to think. I’m rather old to be begin¬ 
ning a new life ... by myself.” 

Her voice of despair reproached him. 
it would have been easier if we’d faced facts long ago,” 



EPILOGUE 


349 


he answered. “ If you’d divorced me when I asked you 
first, you would have made a very different life for 
yourself. Even now . . ” 

“ What life can I make for myself now ? " 

“ Even now you'll find the change easier to bear if you 
remind yourself that, to all intents and purposes, it took 
place ten years ago. After all, there are other interests 
in the world besides . . He hesitated for a word and 
ejected it contemptuously, “ besides domesticity. If you 
set yourself to find them, why, in two, three years’ time.. 

“ In three years' time ? ” she repeated vaguely. 

V 


Her mind went back to Auriol’s entrance that night. 
In three years’ time would she be standing in this room ? 
They would have been married two years by then, 
Ambrose would be two years older; and Auriol would 
not have begun to grow older in two years’ time or ten. 
How would they get on together ? How could they ? 

In two years' time or three, Ambrose would still be 
less than forty-five, with thirty years of activity ahead 
of him if he curbed his appetites. Could Auriol teach him 
temperance in eating and drinking ? Could she persua e 
him that his passion for work was a more insidious vice 
than either ? Forty-five ; and one of the leaders of his 
party in office or opposition. Forty-five , and a secre ary 
of state. Forty-five ; a peer, if he was st.U ascnated 
by titles. Forty-five; and a young man stdl, with 
prestige not confined to one country. Within three years 
certain others-the prime minister, perhaps, among them 
would have yielded to his pressure as Lord Orpingto 


had yielded that night. uwns 

Auriol, in three years, would have learned ma y • 

She had many to learn, many disillusionmen s t0 

then she might have fashioned some conso ing ^ 

justify her husband : a man of genius was not as 



350 


SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

men. She might have discovered that Ambrose Sheridan’s 
wife must have enough personality to inspire him but 
that her personality must never conflict with his. She 
might have acquired miraculous patience and self-efface¬ 
ment. If she were fortunate, she would by then have a 
baby or two and a life of her own in looking after 
them. 

“ In two or three years’ time . . .” Laura echoed. 

If she stayed away for three years, the gap which she 
had left for a moment would be filled. Some one else 
would take her place on all the committees ; Auriol would 
sign the cheques for the hospitals. In three years' time 
Tony, profiting by his late scare, would have married 
advantageously : some one with a handle to her name 
or some one with money at the bank or even some one 
with both. Max Hendry would have returned from his 
wanderings. . . . 

If Max were wise, he would not be in any hurry to 
return. And, when he came back, he would be wise to 
give Auriol a wide berth. In two or three years’ time she 
might have outgrown her present infatuation. When she 
realized the difference in their ages, perhaps she would 
see that Ambrose, with everything else, had annexed her 
youth. Perhaps she would try to recapture it. 

“ I said there were two warnings I wanted to give you,” 
recalled Laura. “ How shall I . . . ? You’re on a pedestal 
at present. Take care never to come off it.” 

” Pedestal ? ” he echoed contemptuously and went on 
with what he had been saying. 

He was talking, Laura found, about her living abroad, 
but she discovered of a sudden that she must not live too 
far away. Since this disastrous marriage could not be 
prevented, it must be made stable. Auriol had promised 
to come for advice and help ; she would need both on the 
day when she discovered that she was not in love with her 
husband or with his life. For a time, no doubt, she would 



* 


EPILOGUE 


0 

351 


He dazzled by her position ; then she would come to want 
the society of her contemporaries ; and Ambrose would 
soon lose patience with them and their silliness. As he 
grew older, the young men would hint to Auriol that she 
was not appreciated ; if he went in search of new “ inspir¬ 
ation”, they would encourage her to console herself. 

“ She’s so very young . . Laura persisted. 

“ In two or three years’ time ...” Sheridan began 
confidently. 

They had both used the phrase ; and for him it had lost 
its definite meaning. To her dismay Laura found herself 
estimating that three years, more probably two, was the 
utmost time that she could give for this marriage to run 
smoothly. Auriol, with her inhibitions of birth and tradi¬ 
tion, was not going to run away; Ambrose, with his 
political complex confusing his private life, would keep 
up appearances, but in less than two years they would 
both see their mistake. He would first shock her modesty 
with his animalism, then he would outrage her mental 
chastity with some piece of sharp practice or vindictive¬ 
ness. And sooner or later she would discover that he was 
twenty years older, that she had never been in love with 

. him. 

Try as she might, Laura could not shut out a picture 
“ in two or three years' time of Auriol and Max 
Hendry, drawn together by old love and proximity ot 
age and similarity of breeding. They were of one wor 
and generation ; Ambrose was of another. 

“ In two or three years’ time . . .” he was saying 


Laura walked to the window and drew the curtain 
aside. There was a light in the Clock Tower : the House 
was still sitting. There were lights along the Mall there 
was a blaze of light from Buckingham Palace. It tm 
were her last night in that room, this would be her last 
memory. The lights would still be shining when she was 



352 . SAVIOURS OF SOCIETY 

at the other end of the world and when Auriol was m 
her place. They would shine in her brain. 

Even when she closed her eyes, they continued to shine. 
She wished she could get rid of them. And she wished 
she could get rid of the uneasy forebodings that gathered 
about the day when Auriol should awake, in mind and 
body, to see herself. Would she then set out to find the 
romance of which she was now being cheated ? If Max 
came back . . . 

“ In three years’ time anything may happen,” she 
sighed. 




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BRISTOL : BURLEIGH LTD., AT THE BURLEIGH PRESS